7 Excellent Reasons to Work in K-12 School Food Service

Chef mixing ingredients in a bowl on background of shapes and doodles 7 excellent reasons to work in k-12 school food service

At the moment, staffing shortages are a major obstacle in K-12 school food service. Nutrition directors and operators are struggling to get the employees they had prior to the pandemic back to the cafeteria. In fact, the food industry lost nearly 2.5 million jobs in 2020 alone.

It’s completely possible to fill the employment gaps across your program, but some clever recruitment tactics will help make it happen. One smart tactic: focusing on all the incredible benefits of a career in K-12 school food service. And while there are many reasons to choose a career in district food service, no job is perfect.

Let’s first take a look at some misconceptions recruits might have about food service in schools and how you can spin those myths.

Needed: Creative Problem Solvers in K-12 School Food Service

You don’t get to cook whatever you want. It’s possible that you’ve interviewed candidates who thought they’d get to put their culinary skills to work. As you and I know, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has stringent rules about the food that is served to kids. 

Another (obvious to most) limitation: you cannot cook with wine, beer, or spirits. And by cook, I mean in adding spirits to the food or drinking them while you cook. However, that doesn’t mean a food service person can’t get creative!

Balancing USDA regulations while also creating enjoyable meals for kids requires a deep understanding of ingredients, recipes and menus. Food service teams are solving challenges for each meal! Recently, supply chain issues have made the situation more complex, requiring creative problem solving. At its core, the best positions offer a lot interesting challenges and fun.

Now that we’ve taken a look at the need for creative problem solvers, let’s dive into the incredible benefits of working in K-12 school food service.

Working in K-12 School Food Service

A career in school food service is very rewarding; you get to feed children from all economic backgrounds so they are nourished and ready to learn. Did you know that 1 in 6 children live with food insecurity? When one takes a job with a school nutrition department, they are doing their part to eliminate food insecurity for children.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the benefits of working in school nutrition.

7 Benefits of Working in School Nutrition

  1. You are making a difference. More than 11 million children live in food insecure homes, and for these kids the food you provide may be the only thing they eat all day.  And most kids love to eat.  The look of appreciation you get from a child is priceless.
  2. Take your kids to work! As a parent, your work schedule and your child’s school schedule will be pretty closely aligned, if not the same. And not having to drop off kids and then drive to work somewhere else is awesome! And how great is it to see your kids during the day, eating lunch with their friends (and making sure that they eat their vegetables)?
  3. All the medical benefits you could need. School employees get really good benefits, which may include:
    • Health Insurance
    • Retirement Plan
    • Group Life Insurance/Disability Insurance
    • Short and long-term disability
    • Dental and Vision Insurance
    • Credit Union access
    • Workers Compensation Accident Insurance
    • Paid Time-off and Sick Leave
  4. Get free continuing education! Many school districts will pay for professional development, so you can learn new skills and make yourself more valuable.
  5. Work with incredible people. How many school teachers have you met that are not nice? Not many, right? Schools attract people who care about the mission of education, and working with kind, caring, and respectful people makes a difference in how much you enjoy your job.
  6. Weekends and holidays off! In the past, when school was out of session the food service operation was closed. But with COVID, some communities rely on their school food service teams to provide meals to people outside of the school who may be housebound or face other challenges. While this is temporary, it is also a great way to help others while doing what you enjoy, which is preparing meals!
  7. Chill out on snow days. Think back to how excited you were for a snow day when you were a kid (sorry warm weather states). Recapture that feeling as you get to take the day off when the schools are closed.

A Job in K-12 School Food Service is a Solid Choice

Whether you’re casting the recruiting net far and wide or if you’re hyper-focused on parents and guardians, the benefits of working in school nutrition are undeniable. When you get an interested candidate, focus on driving home the benefits of working on a school food service team. Beyond ensuring students are nourished and ready to learn, school nutrition professionals benefit from a slew of benefits.

Don’t limit your recruiting to only those with food service experience; include recruitment messages where those in your education community will see them. Whether it’s your school menu or your school nutrition website, make sure to open up the opportunity to the community at large. You never know what amazing talent you’ll find.

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