Internship programs and forging relationships with students are getting increased attention from some of the onsite foodservice industry's most prominent associations.
In recent years, HFM has begun to embrace potential student membership, partnering with the NRA Educational Foundation to sponsor scholarships for students who have an interest in healthcare foodservice.
“The industry can also do its part by offering seminars, education opportunities and real-world experience,” says Linda Lafferty of Rush University Medical Center. She cites is HFM's advanced practice symposium with Penn State, which this year is collaborating with the ADA and ASHFSA to support an advanced symposium for management practice.
In another nod to the next generation, HFM brought 20 undergraduate students to its most recent national conference for the first time.
That kind of engagement is crucial, says Lynne Ometer of Emory University Hospital. “Something has to be done at the undergraduate level or even the high school level to get people interested in this as a potential career rather than just seeing it as going into the kitchen.”
She also notes that HFM is working on the culinary end as well to fight perceptions that nutritious food can't taste great. “I think the more we can do something like that, the more we can excite people about the idea of coming into foodservice management, because they are not going to see it as peeling potatoes in the kitchen, but more about how you create and translate the nutrition into the food.”
Meanwhile, SNA is piloting internship programs at two sites this year, initiating what it hopes will eventually become a reliable way to feed young talent into a segment facing significant generational turnover in its management ranks. The first one to launch has been a collaboration between Texas Woman's University and the Dallas Independent School District. The first candidate began this fall at Dallas ISD, with another slated to begin in January, says Dora Rivas, executive director of Dallas ISD's child and nutrition services department. Each intern will complete two semesters with the district, participating in a wide range of activities designed to give an immersion in child nutrition on the ground level.
“We are hoping to attract more professionals to child nutrition,” says Rivas. “We think this program will help them by lessening the learning curve.”
Even the Foodservice Institute of America (FIA) has gotten into the act, offering internship opportunities for students on the business side of the foodservice industry (for more info on participating, go to www.fia-us.org ).