3-year Revenue Trend (in $millions)
1800 Motor Pkwy.
Islandia, N.Y. 11749
Paul Whitcomb, President/CEO
Navigating an unprecedented pandemic has been challenging, but Whitsons quickly adapted, with its teams working diligently to restore innovative and comprehensive services in the communities that it serves. Here is a look at the many different ways that the company rose to the challenge to make school nutrition programs convenient, personalized and engaging.
Grab-and-go kiosks: Grab-and-go has become an important and much needed option and in response, Whitsons set up meal distribution kiosks at all entrances and in public spaces so students could quickly grab their breakfast and lunch bundles on the go. The meal bundles are properly and safely sealed and ready for students when they arrive at the kiosk in order to limit social interaction time when serving meals as required.
Home delivery: In several communities that Whitsons serves, it has recognized that some families might face challenges in picking up meals during specific pick-up hours, whether because they lack transportation, work or are sole caretakers who could not leave their home. In response, it decided to implement a home-delivery solution, where possible, that helps families in need get the meals they deserve. Twice a week, local teams load up trucks and deliver grab-and-go meals to hundreds of families in their communities, in all weather conditions.
Meal packs: Whitsons began offering multi-day meal packs for virtual learners that include both breakfast and lunch meals for various amounts of days. This option is especially helpful because it allows parents/guardians to provide meals for their children for multiple days without having to drive up to the school for daily a pickup, ultimately limiting social interactions and keeping everyone safe.
Take & bake: Whitsons now offers Take & Bake meals for weekends and holiday breaks, which include all necessary ingredients for students (and their parents/guardians) to make their own fresh tacos, Caesar salad and pizzas. This offering complements the Meal Pack option because it adds more variety to at-home meals and encourages a fun family experience as well.
Lucky Bag Day. Similar to its traditional Lucky Tray Day, Whitsons decided to keep that program going with Lucky Bag Day by simply adding a treat, sticker or toy to pick-up meal bags on certain days—without advertisement so it’s a big surprise. Other promotional efforts to keep the dining program engaging have included Student Appreciation Days with free cookies, sending home encouraging notes with meal packs and adding hot chocolate packets on chilly days.
Nutrition Safari characters: Even though virtual learning was used in many of the communities Whitsons serves, it still felt it important to promote health and good nutrition and one fun way to do that was to station its Nutrition Safari characters at the pick-up lines in elementary schools. There, the Safari team greets students while they remain in their cars and drive through the meal pick-up line, reminding students to eat healthy by handing out healthy snacks to all.
Lettuce Tell You How We Miss You: The staff assembled posters for remote learning students to see when picking meals up, including drawings such as hearts and rainbows and messages like “We miss you.” The team holds their posters up as the cars drive through the pick-up line,
and children love seeing the team with these welcoming messages while making parents understand how much the team misses the students.
Menu viewing app. Whitsons introduced a custom-designed menu viewing application, which brings menu planning, nutrition information, meal ingredients and real-time allergen information to the fingertips of students, parents and school district staff. The streamlined interactive menus also provide customers with easy access to school menu information anytime from any mobile device or PC. Customers can even build their own meals to view various combinations of nutritional and allergen information based on meal component selections, which is particularly helpful when dietary restrictions are present. The company has also added a preorder option to its menu viewing app that lets customers preorder meals from a mobile device. This new feature has been especially helpful throughout the pandemic because it allows Whitsons to limit face-to-face interactions during meal service.
Emergency Nutrition Services (ENS). In response to growing concerns over food insecurity across the nation, Whitsons ownership decided to dedicate resources and shared expertise into a new entity focused solely on the provision of disaster and emergency food relief during times of crisis and as an ongoing resource for those in need. This new ENS entity builds on existing resources of more than 40 years of experience in emergency nutrition services and over 20 years in large-scale emergency response. It now operates independently to provide emergency dining services for a wide range of situations and to date has delivered over 54.2 million pounds of food to those affected by the pandemic. ENS offers a variety of cost-effective, shelf-stable and fresh, emergency meal solutions for organizations such as food banks; community, faith-based and other nonprofit organizations; senior citizen facilities; government and military programs; and natural disaster preparedness programs. The ENS team is also well versed in providing first response and 24-hour dining services in all types of emergency situations, including natural and man-made disasters, human resource emergencies, equipment failures, building damage and power outages. It specializes in managing the entire process, from supply chain management to distribution logistics, to overseeing non-profit partnership relationships and the adherence of contract compliances.