One strategy Orange County Public Schools Food & Nutrition Services has used to reach out to students, parents, staff and the larger community is the use of its food trucks and carts.
OCPS has a fleet of mobile food vans intended for use in case of emergencies when the brick-and-mortar kitchens are unusable.
In order to meet a call from the district superintendent that schools provide more community support, Food & Nutrition Services decided to make the vans available to school groups and PTAs for events where they serve food.
It's convenient because the food stocks are stored centrally and the cooking is done by professionals from the nutrition staff. This also ensures that proper food safety and sanitation procedures are followed.
Also, if the event involves students eligible for free/reduced meals, the group can take advantage of the subsidy and only be responsible for the costs associated with the paying participants (Food & Nutrition Services absorbs the cash component of the reduced meals). The trucks allow groups to hold outdoor events with a menu that can include items like fresh pizza and hot sandwiches because the equipment includes gas-powered impinger ovens.
A similar program also helps alleviate the problem posed by competitive food sales during school hours. In this case, Food & Nutrition Services offered school groups looking to do fundraising through food sales the use of a mobile cart — called a cooperative cart — that features hot and cold storage, and from which organizations can sell up to five different items. The carts can set up in school courtyards (with an adult sponsor overseeing), where the students can sell to their peers. Food & Nutrition Services helps them with pricing, ensures that safe practices are followed and tracks inventory (the department only charges for items sold and takes unsold inventory back).
This strategy allows the fundraising sales to be classified as a la carte sales rather than competitive food sales, while the school group gets the benefit of professional assistance with their enterprise.