School Nutrition Association
Why should someone looking for a career in foodservice consider school nutrition?
I think that the career path in school nutrition is one of the most rewarding in the foodservice business. For someone just beginning a career, I can't imagine a better choice. For one thing, you are dealing with a great customer base. Working with children is highly rewarding and you are helping them at a stage in their lives when you can really make an impact.
School nutrition is one of the few professions that have genuine career ladders that support growth from the lowest to the highest levels. An individual starting at a part-time, entry-level position can rise—with training, on-the-job-experience and initiative—to being the director of a district's school foodservice operation. Another benefit of this segement is a work schedule that is more conducive to family time.
I was originally in business dining, managing the employee and executive dining rooms for one of the Bell Telephone companies. I left the field to begin our family, and when I later returned to work I accepted a position with the local school system because the schedule was a much better match for my lifestyle needs. Looking back, I know it was a real blessing.
What are some of the typical jobs in this field?
School nutrition departments offer everything from soup to nuts. The opportunities in a particular program vary depending on the size and complexity of a district and its programs.
Larger districts often employ area supervisors and or coordinators to oversee several sites. There are often site managers for large locations. They may also employ one or more people to handle specific duties such as purchasing, nutritional analysis, culinary training and recipe development, public relations/marketing, catering, training, etc.
In my district, we have a food service manager and assistant manager in each of our schools; they run operations that generate nearly $1 million in revenue per year.
What are compensation levels like?
A compensation survey done by SNA last year showed a median annual salary for full-time director positions at $48,000 a year; managers at $21,102 a year. These are only averages, and salaries span quite a range depending on the size of a district, whether it is in an urban or rural location, and so on. Benefits are generally very good and often based on the
benefit package provided to other school employees, like teachers. Medical insurance and paid sick time were offered to over 92 percent of full-time employees; dental, life and disability insurance and retirement plans are commonly part of the benefit package.
What would a culinary graduate or chef like about working in this field?
The chance to find ways to encourage children to "eat healthy" is very satisfying. From a purely practical point of view, it's a great job for someone who wants to work days instead of nights, week-ends and holidays. You can have "a real life."
What would someone interested in a management career find rewarding about this field?
School nutriition programs offer the opportunity to "do it all." They are responsible for employee supervision and evaluation; managing staff training and development; developing marketing and promotional programs; doing the strategic planning for operations that are growing or changing; overseeing food preparation and customer service. AND...making a difference in the lives of children.
How does SNA support career growth in school nutrition?
SNA offers a certification/credentialing program designed to encourage school nutrition professionals to improve their skill sets and expand their knowledge and understanding of different operational areas. The Association also makes available a number of tuition assistance programs to help members achieve their education and professional development goals.
How can I find out more?
You can visit SNA's Web site and read its monthly magazine to learn more about what it's like to work in this segment. I would also reccomend contacting school districts in your local area and speaking directly with the foodservice directors. Request time to come by and visit their operation and enjoy a free lunch! You can also call SNA for more information. If you do call, ask for someone in the nutrition education department.