Mars School Board gets good news about cafeteria offerings

October 4, 2019 Cranberry Local News

The Nutrition Group representatives Jodee Raybuck and Bridget Buyna, standing, presented last year's higher-than-expected sales to Mars School Board on Tuesday night.

ADAMS TWP — Mars School Board was in for a treat Tuesday night when it heard a presentation from district cafeteria company The Nutrition Group.

Before the presentation, the board tried pumpkin parfaits prepared by TNG.

“They're being featured tomorrow (in the high school),” said Jodee Raybuck, regional manager.

Presenting numbers from the 2018-19 school year, Raybuck showed the board that TNG made more money than it budgeted last year.

“We were elated with the participation,” Raybuck said. “We blew them out of the water last year.”

Breakfast sales were about $3,608 more than expected. Lunch sales increased by about $6,656. A la carte sold $72,171 more in food than TNG budgeted.

“We're so glad to be out there and reaching the students,” Raybuck said. “Really being able to provide for them what they want.”

Raybuck said TNG wants to increase sales for 2019-20.

District cafeterias will tweak existing — and offer new — programs. The goal is “fresh, nutritious and innovative.”

“Innovative is what we're looking for,” Raybuck said. “But we don't like to forget what we started with.”

Some of the programs TNG found successful last year are Recipe of the Month, a student-driven list of “home-cooked” meals, and Tasty Bites, a list of healthy desserts.

Food Fusion, Farm to Fork and Wellness Wednesdays also provided opportunities for students to try new culinary combinations and local, seasonal foods.

All of the programs, according to Raybuck, were popular in the district.

“We're going to keep bringing them back as long as they're popular,” Raybuck said.

Moving forward, TNG will use social media, Youth Advisory Councils and reports to share information and get feedback about services. Parents can read the menu on the district website or use the app Nutrislice for specific nutritional information.

TNG is also looking to improve “area enhancement and signage” in the district.

At the elementary level, TNG is implementing food classification signs this year to help students identify food groups.

Middle school students will now see messages promoting self-esteem and self-encouragement.

The high school cafeteria will have new “faux brick” and “clean lines.”

“I always say, 'Picture Panera Bread,'” Raybuck said. “Our cafeterias are really starting to move in that direction.”

Students will now be able to order Bistro Boxes, healthy takeout meals that include items such as stuffed peppers and hummus.

“Something that the students can grab and it's that healthy choice,” Raybuck said.

The district's new protein packs are smaller versions of bistro boxes.

Raybuck said TNG is looking to create memorable moments with students who come through the cafeteria. Cafeteria staff use “#momentsmatter” during the year to share the progress of the cafeteria.

“If we can make that moment for that student, then we were successful,” Raybuck said. “Our staff is fantastic at making those moments.”

Raybuck encouraged parents and district staff to follow TNG District Director Bridget Buyna on social media.