It is daunting; It is not impossible

11 Oct It is daunting; It is not impossible

Recently I was asked to speak at the Association of School Business Officials (ASBO) Exposition in Phoenix to a gathering of dieticians and business managers all over North America. It was a great honor and I spoke along with Karen Dietrich, a marketing professional specializing in K-12 Food Service and Julie Levin, the chef at Nardin Academy in Buffalo, NY, with whom I worked closely to build their scratch cooking program.

The attendees felt helpless, overwhelmed and “stuck” with their food service companies. The cafeterias have been siloed and in turn so has their way of thinking. It’s no longer an expansive way of thinking, it’s just pragmatic. The general impression I received from this group who are in the trenches every day is that this task of overhauling their school lunch program, of moving away from processed foods and toward scratch cooking and zero waste, is, simply put, daunting.

And I agree, it is daunting.

But not impossible.

The usual questions usually pop up right away,….”how the hell are we going to do that ‘in budget?”, “how are we going to find the time to do this?”, “Do you really think the kids are going to eat healthier food?”. The questions belie a sense of panic of the unknown. Then they just assume it can’t be done, assume it will cost more, toss their arms up in the air, and generally become less receptive. However, the original intentions remain the same.

So if you are too slammed and overworked and cannot muster the energy to listen hard about their food program—then don’t.  It’s not going to go well.

When ready to take the program to the next level, lean on and bring in an expert to your team to guide the way. This expert brings a fresh set of eyes and new perspective to the status quo.  As I write this, I am the aforementioned expert at a potential project in Hawaii. Last week I spent an entire day just asking questions and acquainting myself with them and vice versa. I wanted to understand what they were currently doing, why they have chosen that particular process, and how long have they been implementing that process.

The majority of those I met with were open and engaged….and some were not so much. That dynamic is true for most of life. It’s rare to have 100% agreement and participation from the start. “A stranger has entered my world!” and thus follows a whole range of reactions.

In this case, I had a dialogue with the full time employees followed next by those who work part time. I wanted to gauge the overall attitude toward change. In this instance, I wanted to make sure everyone was clear on what the change actually was. I needed to convey that I too want what is best for the students. I wanted to be part of the change that provides better school food while gaining access to local ingredients.

In the end, it’s about the people and not the data. People have the ability to make the change. It’s important to not establish sides, but to establish a common goal and vision. Explain to them that you want to be a part of this mission, and convince them it can only be done if its cohesive.

I will say it again, because I think it bears repeating.

It is daunting.

But not impossible.


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