17 Jul Establishing a Quantitative Baseline
If you don’t have a clear picture of where you are right now, how can you monitor progress or determine where you are going?
We often assume we know, but facts and data show our perceptions are not always accurate. We guess how much food kids are throwing away, what students eat the most, or what menu items cost the least. Then we make menus we think kids like, believe we are improving, and hope that we are operating within budget. However, by establishing a baseline with data relevant to your goals you will know with certainty where you stand, and then be able to make the best decisions for your program to achieve success. Painting a clear picture of the program status also creates opportunities to identify needs and seek funding to meet your goals.
Beyond Green Sustainable Food Partners (BGP) begins analyzing current operations in several areas including:
- Participation numbers – compare number of meals served to total number of students enrolled
- Profit and Loss – all income and expenditures related to the cafeteria
- Recipe costing – the cost of your ingredients, along with how much of each ingredient is used in your dish
- Waste amount – total pounds in the various categories (to understand how much of the money spent is being thrown away)
- Fresh to processed food ratio – measured in dollars of total food purchases looking at how much is spent on fresh foods versus processed foods
- Percentage of local food – local as defined by the team measured in dollars of total food purchases
The optimal baseline will consist of data for one school year. A semester is second best to account for daily changes and extraordinary situations. Using spreadsheets, BGP tracks the data list above and then compiles the data into a report document.
The quantitative baseline combined with a qualitative baseline sets a program on the path of intentional direction.
Beyond Green Sustainable Food Partners created an online course called Dream a New Dream: Operational Manual for Farm to School Programs for schools who want to follow BGP’s method for achieving farm to school success by starting where you are. For more information about this course, visit the BGP website.