A Guide to Building Relationships with School Nutrition Staff
Building relationships with school nutrition staff is vital to expanding access to school meals. This resource is intended to guide you in deciding when to approach school nutrition staff and which members of the staff to approach.
Knowing who the key decision-maker is for your request is essential to approaching the right person. While a number of people may have input in decision-making, the school nutrition director is ultimately accountable. You should approach the school nutrition director before approaching a school nutrition manager. If it is a large school district, the director may have a leadership team that he or she may connect you with. This top down approach is important to ensuring that you respect the relationship between the director and his or her staff. Approaching the school nutrition manager or food service workers with something different from what they were assigned to do could create conflict between them and the school nutrition director; it could also potentially harm your relationship with the school nutrition director.
It is not only important to know who to approach, but also when to approach them. You want to approach the right person at the right time. Note that school calendars vary somewhat by district and state. This timeline should be used as a guide; consult your state education agency or individual district or school calendars (generally available online) for the most locally relevant information. Be sure to pay attention to school breaks (spring, summer, winter, etc.) and testing periods as these can have a significant effect on when to approach school nutrition directors.