The foodservice department at Tulsa Public Schools was experiencing dramatic operating losses in the mid 1990s. Program costs were increasing faster than revenues and a substantial deficit was looming. TPS partnered with Sodexo to revitalize the school meal program for its growing student population.
The experienced Sodexo management team conducted an opportunity assessment and identified several areas of focus. The first challenge was school breakfast. It reached only a few students, and there was a perception that only free-meal students ate breakfast at school.
The Sodexo proposal included a comprehensive breakfast program which would reach all students with a nutritious, healthy morning meal. Sodexo offered several service options, including breakfast in the classroom. Schools with students performing below norms on standardized tests were pilot sites.
Sodexo and the district’s administrators arranged meetings with principals and their staffs to address concerns about food spills, trash, and time away from daily lessons.
Only one principal agreed to pilot the new service for a 90-day period. It was launched and quickly received favorable reviews from students, parents and local media. Teachers became advocates for breakfast service. They found that the morning meal helped students perform at a higher level, and used this opportunity to teach the importance of hand washing, responsibility of helping others clear food containers, and held a brief discussion about nutrition.
The program expanded and today 52 percent of the elementary schools have breakfast in the classroom. Overall, more than 15,500 students enjoy breakfast with their classmates each school day. TPS principals, administrators and the school board were instrumental in the success of the program.
Average test scores increased during the initial years of breakfast service. Other advantages were a reduction in absenteeism and tardiness. Fewer discipline problems due to disinterested students based on hunger pains were reported.
The custodial concerns were solved through an agreement to have additional receptacles and trash bags. The program has successfully passed state and federal audits for accountability and menu nutrient compliance.
Breakfast service to help prepare students for a busy day of learning is one of the many ways Sodexo delivers added value for TPS. School meal enhancements, a focus on customer service, and positive financial accomplishments have resulted in a lasting relationship.
The Sodexo foodservice team fully supports a number of initiatives at TPS, such as sponsoring scholarships and a variety of community service activities. The company added a chef and registered dietitian to the management staff to assist the district in meeting the taste preferences and nutritional requirements of its students. Both regularly support instructional needs by presenting culinary demonstrations and nutrition education modules in Tulsa's classrooms.
Sodexo manages Senior Nutrition Services in the area, and recently created an innovative program that involves senior citizens and some elementary students. Twice a month the seniors join some fourth- and fifth-graders for lunch. Prior to lunch they share stories and have showand- tell sessions. It has proven to be a valuable lesson and learning experience for the young students and a fulfilling opportunity for the seniors. It’s one more example of how Sodexo strives to improve the quality of everyday life for is clients and customers.
To learn more, or to visit a Sodexo account near your school district, call 800-347-8000.