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In-Depth Case Study of Waltham Public Schools

Part Four – Build a Breakfast Bar and “They Will Come!”

In Part Four – the final installment of our Q&A with April Liles, R.D., S.N.S., of the Waltham Public Schools in Waltham, Mass., (#Gohawks!), she discusses creative ways to build excitement around a nutrition program and increase ADP.

 

Eggs In Schools: What do you need to set up a breakfast bar?

April: Food, People, Equipment and a Smile! The bar is not a new concept but man oh man is it a good one. If you can just pull this off at one of your schools, or even just once a week or month the students will come. I like the tag line – If they can build it – they will COME! We are big on bars here in Waltham because they are Menu KICKERS, which means they kick up participation and sales.

Bars can present some challenges with portion sizes, line setup, flow and staff training, however if you put the time and commitment into standardizing this process, the staff will come along, and the students will really be the winners. Ideas for bars are really endless but utilizing eggs is a great start. Scrambled Egg Bars, Breakfast for Lunch Bars or Breakfast Skillet Bars are all examples. We use a potato or tater tot base, then have scrambled eggs, breakfast meats, cheeses and vegetables on the serving line to add on to the entrée or bowl. We typically have toppings to choose from as well, which include salsa, sour cream, jalapenos, etc. Having the correct equipment (pans, serving utensils) available for bars are critical in developing and standardizing your recipes

 

Eggs In Schools: At what grade level are students able to serve themselves? 

April: Well we do self-serve K-12, because we have the space and equipment to do this. However, this may not be the case for everyone. Start with the older grade levels first then work to your MS and elementary locations.

 

Eggs In Schools: What service strategies increase meal participation the most?

April: Bars, Bowls, LTOs, Pop-Ups, etc. – I would recommend trying them all. Even when you are positive you CANNOT pull off a menu concept regularly – whether it be staffing shortages, equipment needs or even just lack of time – consider running a promotion like these. I would recommend starting very small if you have never done it before, but a promotion using eggs is a great way to start.

If you have never menued smoothies or parfaits, but have wanted to try, you can start making them mini size first and serve with eggs for a Brunch for Lunch menu. Or if you want to spice up your traditional Breakfast for Lunch concept, do a promotion using Belgian waffles instead of the typical French toast stick. Or If you are feeling like you want to go big or go home ... you can try an omelet station or several and invite the school faculty and students to participate. This will help you tremendously with creating excitement about your program. It will take some planning but take this chance to standardize the process, so you can repeat it often. This will certainly increase your participation day of, but overall creates opportunities for you to connect with your customers in new ways, which helps build a up your program. Plus, it’s super FUN! Anyone that knows me knows: I like FUN!

 

Eggs In Schools: Obviously, you’ve tried a lot of different things with your students and staff from pop-ups to LTOs, is there anything you’ve tried that didn’t work?

April: Oh yes. Failure is success in progress. If at first you don’t succeed, keep on truckin!!!

Why? We charged the wrong price, we did not market enough to students, our recipe did not taste good, and we tried an LTO in the wrong spot in our serving lines. Really, we have made a lot of mistakes. The take away is to evaluate your mistakes and try again.

 

Eggs In Schools: If you could implement only one new idea during breakfast service, what would you suggest starting with?

April: If you are not using eggs currently, start now! Eggs pair well with fruit, veggies and whole grains and are a great way to include protein for breakfast while meeting the grain requirement!

 

Eggs In Schools: Finally, if a school could only add one egg dish or product to their menu or inventory, which one would you suggest and why?

April: I would say start with a scrambled egg base recipe and try to develop at least five different NEW recipes from this. Add flavor through herbs, sauces, proteins, veggies and you easily find yourself with many new options to try.

 

A big thanks to April and all her eggciting ideas!

 

Read Part One of the Q&A: Setting a Program Philosophy and Reaching Your Goals

Read Part Two of the Q&A: Bowls Boost ADP & Hard-Boiled Ideas 

Read Part Three of the Q&A: Avoid Menu Fatigue & Create a Flavor Adventure 

To listen to the SNA “Protein Power” Webinar, which is the inspiration for this Q&A, CLICK 

 

2018-03-08 14:09:07
 

From the line: Dishing up successful meal strategies @ Waltham Public Schools

Part Three – Avoid Menu Fatigue & Create a Flavor Adventure

We’re back again talking with April Liles, R.D., S.N.S., of Waltham Public Schools in Waltham, Mass., where she directs the nutrition program for 5,800 K-12 students. The district (#Gohawks!) includes nine schools plus a new, K-1 dual-language school, each with a full-service kitchen that serves breakfast and lunch. Average Daily Participation (ADP) for breakfast is 20 percent the ADP for lunch is 68 percent.

This is Part Three of a four-part Q&A about this Incredible School Breakfast & Lunch program.

 

Eggs In Schools: Are most of your students adventuresome when it comes to trying new foods and flavors?

April: If you prepare good foods that taste good consistently, then your students are more apt to try new recipes and flavors when offered. They build trust in your program and confidence that the flavors will be likeable. Also taste tests, samples and Try it out Tuesdays or Thursdays are ways to get kids to experiment with their taste buds. Or does it vary by grade level? No, this is consistent in K-12.

 

Eggs In Schools: How do you use pop-ups during meal service?

April: This is my FAVORITE new concept to share. The POP-UP! You likely have all heard the buzz-buzz-buzz over these pop-up shops and pop-up eateries. Well this concept brings the pop-up trend right into your cafeterias by offering you an avenue to showcase new recipes, ethnic dishes, flavor profiles, farm to school ingredients, school garden harvests…really anything you want to showcase and/or just TRY OUT before it hits a menu cycle or a serving line. You can use a cart, serving line or even just a table.

 

Eggs In Schools: Do they increase meal participation?

April: Yes. The pop-up creates excitement and something for the students to look forward to.

 

Eggs In Schools: LTOs (Limited Time Offerings) aren’t something you think of in school foodservice. How do you execute them?

April: LTOs can be done so many different ways. This really should be customized to your school, menu and student demographics. We menu LTOs for only one week. We always have it offered on the same lines. We market with line signs and social media.

 

Eggs In Schools: What types of breakfast foods do you serve for an LTO? 

April: Well we have done yogurt sundae parfaits, wicked wacky waffle, yogurt parfait bars, smoothies, smoothie bowls.

 

Eggs In Schools: Are they related to holidays or school activities?

April: Yes, whenever you can tie in a holiday or event like the Super Bowl or school-based activity your LTO or promotion can ride on the coattail of that momentum. This is actually an excellent time to showcase a new item, recipe, etc.

 

Eggs In Schools: How do you promote LTOs, pop-ups, etc., to students and staff?

April: Most all of our outreach these days is electronic. For students and parents – Facebook, twitter, Snapchat and emails home to the parent community.

 

Eggs In Schools: How do you avoid menu fatigue?

April: My advice here is to spend A LOT of time on your menu planning. Do not hurry over it or rush it. Do not just menu something because you have too much inventory or it’s a cut and paste from last month. You have to work on it each month. Work hard on it. Try new ideas. Be creative. Prioritize it. Over and over and over again, this process cannot be overlooked. You have to put the work in to get the results. Look at daily ADPs, production sheets and find out what your customers really want. Get out of the office and into the cafeterias and discover what the kids are thinking about, talking about it and posting on social media. The answer to your menu or recipe fatigue problems is right in front of you in your own school kitchens and cafeterias. You just have to put the work in. 

 

Watch for the final part of our Q&A with April Liles for more thoughts about the rave reviews students and staff give to the Waltham Public Schools foodservice program and how eggs contribute to their success.

Next up: Build a Breakfast Bar and “They Will Come!”

Read Part One of the Q&A: Setting a Program Philosophy and Reaching Your Goals 

Read Part Two of the Q&A: Bowls Boost ADP & Hard-Boiled Ideas 

To listen to the SNA “Protein Power” Webinar, which is the inspiration for this Q&A, CLICK

 

2018-03-07 16:02:03
 

From the line: Dishing up successful meal strategies @ Waltham Public Schools

Part Two – Bowls Boost ADP & Hard-Boiled Ideas

This is Part Two of our Eggs In Schools Q&A with April Liles, R.D., S.N.S., and her incredible school nutrition program in the Waltham Public Schools in Waltham, Mass. (#Gohawks!)

Part One: Setting a Program Philosophy and Reaching Your Goals

 

Eggs In Schools: What made you start serving ‘bowls’ at breakfast? How receptive have students been to bowled items?

April: Bowls are BOOMING right now. If you put it in a bowl, the recipe is magically transformed. My kids are totally loving anything in a bowl this year. I have several recipes where I did not change one ingredient at all, but just put the food into a bowl instead of in a square compartment on a tray and POOF – ADP spikes. Examples include: Southwestern Egg Bowl (replacing meats with eggs with a southwestern/Mexican flavor profile and toppings), Breakfast Skillet Bowl (starting with tots or potatoes and adding eggs, and toppings to include meats, vegetables, even sauces like fresh salsa, guacamole), Ramen Bowls, Quinoa Bowls, and even the Smoothie Bowl for the breakfast concept. I have even tried just putting spaghetti and meatballs in a bowl rather than on a tray – kids really like it, and there are a ton of options for bowls out there ranging in price, based on the quality you desire.

 

Eggs In Schools: Let’s talk about your use of hard-boiled eggs (HBEs). How do you use HBEs at breakfast?

April: Yes, we serve HBEs as EggPops for breakfast. We also serve them sliced in half with a choice of whole grain item. Additionally, we have offered HBEs with flavor stations, which involves adding salt-less spice shakers on the line.

 

Eggs In Schools: At other times of day?

April: Yes, for our Grab-N-Go Meals or we call them Power Packs. They are so on-trend right now – the protein box, bento box, power pack, really whatever you want to call it. Basically, it’s a grab-n-go meal-in-a-box. The kids love these, and also our school faculty go nuts over these. I can even charge upwards of $4.50 for the adult meal price and comparably speaking, that’s affordable when you look at what establishments like Starbucks are charging.

 

Eggs In Schools: What components do you add?

April: We add all the major meal components minus the milk. The hard-boiled egg is an easy protein to add to these boxes. Here in Waltham, to be sure all component requirements are being met, we have a customizable cheat sheet for building these out. This gives my staff flexibility to utilize inventory and showcase student preferences at specific schools. It just lists the four components (grain, protein, fruit, veg) and then lists common ingredients from most kitchens to finalize. It’s a cheat sheet!  Also – the American Egg Board has amazing references on their website, and here is a sample of the Protein Box Inspiration info available in their toolkit.

 

Eggs In Schools: Do different combos appeal to different age groups?

April: The younger kids like more finger foods, whereas the older kids/adults prefer a chicken salad/egg salad/tuna salad/hummus for dipping things like naan, pita and crackers.

 

Eggs In Schools: Do you offer different flavorings to different aged students?

April: Yes, I would say we offer more mild flavors to the K-2 group of students, but as they get a bit older, we start to introduce more bold, spicy and ethnic flavors to recipes.

 

The Q&A will continue with a look at other service ideas. Watch for the next installment with more of April’s thoughts on how to energize your school nutrition program and how eggs can contribute to its success.

Next up: Avoid Menu Fatigue & Create a Flavor Adventure

Read Part One: Setting a Program Philosophy and Reaching Your Goals

To listen to the SNA “Protein Power” Webinar, which is the inspiration for this Q&A, GO!

 

2018-03-06 14:05:53
 

From the line: Dishing up successful meal strategies

A four-part conversation with school nutrition dynamo, April Liles of Waltham Public Schools

 

Eggs In Schools caught up with April Liles, R.D., S.N.S., after the SNA “Protein Power” Webinar and asked her to share some of the ways she brings creativity and a spirit of fun to meal service in the Waltham Public Schools in Waltham, Mass., where she directs the nutrition program for 5,800 K-12 students. The district (#Gohawks!) includes nine schools plus a new, K-1 dual-language school, each with a full-service kitchen that serves breakfast and lunch. Average Daily Participation (ADP) for breakfast is 20 percent the ADP for lunch is 68 percent.

In this first installment of our Q&A Setting a Program Philosophy and Reaching Your Goals, April gives us the down low on her approach to managing a school nutrition program, while keeping all the stakeholders satisfied and motivated.

 

Eggs In Schools: First, can you share some insights, successes and challenges—your philosophy on feeding kids?

April: Our program’s philosophy is quite simple — Good Food + Happy People = Success

To achieve success, we want to make meals accessible and affordable to all students, while remaining financially self-sufficient.

Meanwhile, we keep in mind these ongoing program goals:

  • Strive to increase meals served to Waltham community.
  • Make meals fresh, healthy & nutritious.
  • Remain financially self-sufficient.
  • Grow together as a team.
  • Maintain a good attitude.
  • ALWAYS serve with a smile.
  • Tell our story.
  • Have fun.

Eggs In Schools: Since there’s no protein requirement at breakfast, why do you serve eggs? When you have eggs on the menu for breakfast, how does it affect ADP/meal sales?

April: The reality is…eggs are a known breakfast food here in the U.S. Students (and me!) look for eggs during the morning hours. When we menu eggs, it helps drive ADP and certainly tick UP meal sales. Typically, when eggs are incorporated into a recipe or menu, my customers are more likely to buy. Also, eggs are easy to cook and also easily customized or flavor-ized by adding any sort of herb, spice, vegetable or protein filler. Eggs can become bold in flavor and really be a standout entrée on your menu.

 

Eggs In Schools: What kind of eggs/egg products do you use in your kitchens? Why? How?

April: Eggs are a menu planner’s DREAM come true. First and foremost, eggs are a nutrition powerhouse. Eggs consist of high-quality protein, they are nutrient rich and they do a great job at making you feel fuller…longer. ALSO – eggs are versatile, portable, affordable and here’s the thing – KIDS REALLY LIKE EGGS!  They are familiar with eggs, as they are a staple at home. We use them all over menus, for both breakfast and lunch meals. We use scrambled eggs, patties, hard-boiled eggs and omelets in all sort of ways. Brunch for Lunch, Bowls, Bars, Grab-N-Go’s. Eggs really do make sense to rotate in on your menus.

 

Eggs In Schools: What strategies do you use when putting eggs on the menu?

April: Well, every menu planner’s strategies and priorities are different went it comes to recipe development. One of my old college professors used to start each class by telling us, “Everything in foodservice starts with the menu.” This is ALWAYS true. From the food – to the labor – to the equipment – and then the level of acceptability — it all starts with a solid menu. Because eggs are so versatile, well-liked and affordable – my strategy is to use them as much as possible – in as many ways as possible to create a well-balanced kid-friendly menu.

 

Eggs In Schools: What’s the most popular way to serve eggs at your school?

April: Good old scrambled eggs, hands down. We use the USDA Foods liquid eggs and fresh eggs from our produce vendor mostly.

 

Eggs In Schools: Do different age kids have different egg preferences?

April: I don’t see that here in Waltham. All egg forms are well liked at most grade levels.

 

Watch for the next installment of the Q&A for more thoughts on why students and staff give rave reviews to the Waltham Public Schools nutrition program and how eggs contribute to its success.

Next up: How Breakfast Bowls Boost ADP

To listen to the SNA “Protein Power” Webinar, which is the inspiration for this Q&A, GO! 

 

2018-03-05 16:41:36
 

Protein-based snacks benefit in-class behavior

Educators in one Iowa school noticed a change in student behavior—a change for the better. They believe this improvement could be due to a new snack program introduced at the beginning of the school year, one that provided protein-based snacks, such as hard-boiled eggs, yogurt and cheese to students visiting the school nurse. This pilot program was dubbed the Protein Intervention project, and it yielded surprising results.

Schools often serve snacks to student populations who are food insecure. Yet the type of snacks schools typically offer, such as crackers, granola bars or fruit snacks, while inexpensive and shelf-stable, are high on the glycemic index scale. These snacks exacerbate students’ blood sugar fluctuations and can contribute to challenging behaviors.

At the beginning of the 2015/2016 school year, the school launched a pilot project to test a hypothesis that protein-based snacks could help improve classroom behavior. Protein-based snacks were substituted for the carbohydrate snacks typically given to students visiting the school nurse. Records were kept of the students’ visit, snack choice, date and time. While students were allowed to choose from among the protein-based snacks available, the majority selected hard-boiled eggs.

When staff tabulated data relating protein snack consumption to behavioral referrals, the results were striking. Data showed that only 11.5 percent of these students’ behavioral referrals occurred on days when they received the protein intervention. The other 88.5 percent of these students’ behavioral referrals occurred on days when they did not visit the nurse and request protein.

Granted, this was only a small test...but the results are intriguing and worth further research. READ more details on The Protein Intervention.

2017-04-06 12:28:02
 

Hatching new ideas

One of the many great things about ANC is it provides a forum to strike up conversations and share ideas with so many people from different backgrounds, yet with the common focus of school nutrition. Some of our favorite ‘egg-centric’ ideas from the show came from school nutrition professionals and our fellow exhibitors.   

Case in point: We got talking with some attendees as they munched on EggPops, and while they all really liked the concept, some had safety concerns about using a stick, especially with younger kids. They wanted to know if there might be another way to make EggPops, so we suggested using carrot or celery sticks instead. It’s one of those two birds with one stone ideas. Kids get to enjoy more veggies—always a bonus—and there’s less waste. Then to illustrate the idea, we stopped by the Grimmway Farms booth to get a few carrot sticks.

Another tasty idea came via exhibitor, Tajin USA. Its Tajin spice mix is a savory combination of sea salt, mild chilies and lime zest, meant for topping fruit and vegetables. I’m sure you know where we’re going with this. Sprinkled over EggPops—let’s just say Tajin gave sriracha mayo a run for ‘favorite topping’ honors. EggPops with Tajin check the boxes on so many of today’s food trends. They’re high in protein, convenient/easy to eat, and they’ve got a multicultural flavor profile with a hint of heat. You might want to give it a try in next year’s menu plan.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by our booth. We appreciate all the info and ideas you shared. Please keep the ideas coming. We love hearing from you!

 

2016-07-28 19:51:45
 

Winner, winner, eggs for dinner!

Once again our egg chair proved a popular spot for selfies. It also came in handy as a frame to capture photos of our contest winners! 

The lucky winners of registration to ANC 2017 are:

Day 1: Polly Houston, foodservice director, Lennox, Calif.
Day 2: Larry Jackson, cafeteria manager, Sumter County School District, Ga.
Day 3: Kelly Thompson, director of child nutrition, LaSalle Parish School, La.

AEB also took part in the Ruby Reader Contest in which Susan Adams of Oklahoma was the lucky winner of a FitBit. Congratulations to one and all! We look forward to seeing you next year in Atlanta. You can see all of the winners’ pictures on our Twitter feed

 

2016-07-28 19:51:01
 

ANC 2016 Recap

Wow! ANC proved to be a smashing success for Eggs in Schools. Seven-thousand-ish school nutrition professionals gathered in San Antonio, bringing along all their energy and enthusiasm. For three days, the AEB booth buzzed with non-stop activity. Not only did we launch our new “Eggs in Schools” branding, we also served more than 1,400 EggPops, with a selection of sauces and dusts—all the while interacting with school nutrition directors. It was gratifying to have so many attendees drop by and say, “My kids LOVE eggs.”
 
As you can imagine at AEB, we spend a fair bit of time extolling the virtues of eggs. They’re a high-quality protein, nutritious, only 70 calories per large egg…eggs are satiating. When kids have eggs at a meal, they stay full longer, so they can concentrate on learning and not their stomachs. The new tagline for the School Nutrition Association—Feeding Bodies, Fueling Minds™—well, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves. If only we’d thought of it first…it could just as well be the tagline for eggs, because that’s precisely what eggs do. 

 

2016-07-28 19:48:52
 

Out of the mouths of babes

“To whom it may concern, I hear there are no more omlets in the lunch room. This is outragoues. Kids are going crazy without omlets. If we do not get them back we will be crazy.” 

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, so imagine our delight when we read this quote from a third-grader—in her own spelling—in a recent article in the Bangor Daily News. The article, “Third-grader leads effort to put eggs back on breakfast menu,” chronicles the efforts of nine-year-old, Leyla Carreira, who started a petition drive at her school because she missed eggs on the breakfast menu. 

Now that’s initiative…and what a great cause. It’s wonderful to hear of a young student who realizes the value of eating nutrient-rich eggs in the morning. Without knowing the terminology, she understands eggs are satiating and they keep her tummy full, so she can concentrate on her schoolwork. Kudos to Leyla!

While we are disappointed that in the end, despite her best efforts, the school district decided to remove eggs from the school breakfast menu, as representatives of America’s egg farmers, we’re very appreciative of her efforts. Another chapter in this story is being written, so stay tuned for the further tales of “Eggs in Schools in Maine.”

 

2016-06-27 14:31:29
 

Road tripping to San Antonio

We’re just a few weeks out from this year’s ANC. Looked at the forecast, and not surprisingly for Texas—it’s going to be HOT! In a way that’s good, we won’t mind being inside soaking up all that air conditioning. Did I say that? I meant knowledge. The heat is already getting to me.

While we’re on the topic of ANC, you know you’ll probably find yourself walking around the conference and all of sudden you’ll be famished. Why is it always that way? Well when that happens, this is your personal invitation to stop by the American Egg Board booth #347 for a satisfying, nutrient-dense EggPop. If you haven’t tried one yet, now’s your chance. And if you have, you know just how good they are. EggPops — for the uninitiated — are hard-boiled eggs on a stick. Simple, yes! Tasty, yes! Satiating, yes! But the magic is in the flavorings. We’ll have an array of sauces and dusts for dipping and rolling. You’ll no doubt want to plan your day around EggPop snacking.

When you stop by the booth, don’t forget to enter the drawing for a free registration to ANC 2017 in Atlanta. We’re giving away a registration each day. All you need to do is come by and fill out a short form, either try an EggPop or take a selfie in our groovy egg-shaped chair, and then share your photo on Twitter - #eggsinschools. Our egg chair looks like a relic from the 1960s, but don’t worry it’s not. 

Bottom line—drop in to the AEB booth 347. Grab an EggPop, snap a selfie and enter to win. Hope to see you soon in San Antonio! 

 

2016-06-27 14:30:38