More Top Training Tips & Tools

In School Nutrition’s November 2014 issue, school nutrition consultant and author JoAnne Robinett, SNS, offers a wide range of suggestions to help school nutrition directors, supervisors and managers energize their training efforts to engage their team members in the pursuit of excellent. Many of Robinett’s creative ideas and tips could not fit in the print edition of “Learn to Train, Train to Learn,” and are included below as exclusive online bonus content.

  • Training Activity:

    Here is a fun interactive training involving seasonings. Take 10 different seasoning and place a little of each type into a small bowl or bag labeled with a number. (If the group is large, create duplicates of each.) Participants are given a form numbered from one to ten. They examine each seasoning: They are allowed to touch, taste and smell. Then they try to identify each one, recording their answers. In my experience, it’s seldom that anyone gets them all correct, so everyone learns something new about ways to flavor menu items. Ask staff members to share what they learned, as well as what surprised them.

  • Training Activity

    Intrigued by the seasonings activity above? I have conducted a nearly identical activity to teach food safety. Use 10 different, unidentified white powders—some might be foods, others chemicals. Place them in clear, sealed plastic bags, each labeled with a number. In this case, do not let them taste or smell these substances, just view with their eyes and handle in the sealed bags. Once again, ask that they record their responses. After identifying the correct answers, start a discussion about the potential consequences of unlabeled food items, as well as the frightening risks if a chemical was confused with a food item. In this exercise, you can review such areas as labeling, storage, wearing protective eyewear and so on. And you will find you can engage staff in a beneficial dialogue—not watch their eyes glaze over by a conventional food safety data dump.

  • Training Resources: Videos

    As noted in “Learn to Train, Train to Learn,” videos are a great way to entertain and educate in training sessions. Remember, it is not so much about choosing a video as it is about you finding a better way to deliver the knowledge you need them to learn. There is a lot to choose from; available Internet content includes video clips, TV clips, music videos, video blogs, short original videos and educational videos and commercials.

    What do you want staff to know? Use the search box on the YouTube page to type in training topics. Maybe you want to teach staff “how to use a knife” or “how to bandage a cut” There’s a good chance that no matter what you want to teach, someone has recorded and shared a visual lesson for it.

    Here are some other specific suggestions that I’ve discovered, ranging from culinary techniques to regulatory training to motivational presentations. Inspirational videos are a great way to end a training session.

    • “How to Cut a Watermelon in Less than 30 Seconds”
    • Chef Cyndie's Culinary Solutions Inc. Designed for school nutrition employees, Chef Cyndie has developed 22 videos, ranging from less than two minutes to about 20 minutes. The shorter ones give staff quick food preparation tips and techniques. The longer ones teach food safety concepts.
    • This 16-minute Civil Rights training video was produced by the Georgia Department of Education for school nutrition employees. Regulations require employees to be given training on civil rights every year; check this one out and decide if it will work for you.
    • This 7-minute video on bloodborne pathogens is an informative safety film covering a very serious subject with a comic book effect that is intended to grab and hold viewer attention. This is just one approach; when you search “bloodborne pathogens” in YouTube, you will find many videos. They range from a few minutes to nearly a half an hour, and from amateur attempts to official government presentations.
    • This compilation site offers 100 of the best motivational videos to be had—for free. Martin Luther King, Jr., Zig Ziglar, Steve Jobs, and Steven Covey are just a few of the well-known presenters who are featured. Some of these clips are audio only, so do your research before you plan your training.
    • While you can’t download any of the short videos featured on this site, you can play them for free if you have a live Internet connection. Some are virtually guaranteed to move your staff to tears. Consider “Johnny the Bagger,” an inspiring customer service video that I have used many times. If you try some of these online and like what you see, you can purchase a DVD.
    • You may have heard of TED Talks, offered by a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading creative and innovative ideas, typically through powerful monologues that run 18 minutes or less. Start with one by School Lunch Hero Day founder Jarrett J. Krosoczka called, “Why Lunch Ladies Are Heroes” ( Another great one for school nutrition teams is, about how a smile can change things.
  • Training Tips: Video Use

    Before you use YouTube or other Internet videos for a group training exercise, do a little planning.

    • Always view videos in their entirety to determine if they are appropriate, before sharing them with employees. YouTube is user generated; what one person thinks is appropriate to say at her training, may not be acceptable in your setting.
    • You will need either a large video monitor, an LCD projector or a Smartboard that will project the video from a computer. Most school buildings have this equipment—and someone who can help you use it.
    • I prefer to download the video in advance and save it on my laptop or to a flash drive. This ensures that you won’t experience Internet slowness or video buffering at show time. However, you may need to find help from someone in your district who has experience downloading videos from the Internet. Up for a new learning experience? Type “How to download a YouTube video” in your search engine box for instructions. Or try this link:, which I found very easy to use!
    • If you choose to access and play the videos live, be sure that your location has an active Internet connection and that the YouTube site is not blocked at that location. Consider visiting both the website and the building site ahead of time and conduct a practice run-through.
  • Training Activity:

    Are you working with a very large group? Have them “number off” and regroup by number. This simple step will energize your training in more ways than one. First, it breaks up the friends who always sit together and may chat through the session. Second, it gets everyone up and moving to another table, where you will have a project waiting. Perhaps you want to them to improve their production records—give each table a different production record that is incomplete, and ask them to work together to identify elements that are missing or incorrect. Want them to learn about teamwork? Provide each table with a kit of odds and ends and require that they work together to invent something using these items. Each table team will need to plan, build, market and then explain their invention to the larger group.

  • Training Resources: NFSMI

    Where can you find resources for individual or group training? The National Food Service Management Institute (NFSMI) can help. NFSMI’s mission is to provide information and services that promote the continuous improvement of child nutrition programs. When it comes to training, the organization can be your new best friend.

    Start here,, with the subject index. I selected “customer service” and was taken to a page with more than 50 entries just on this topic! These entries included document files, PowerPoint presentations, videos, posters—almost everything you would need to conduct customer service training for employees working at any level. Many of the links took me to pages with multiple training tools. This is truly a trainer’s treasure chest of material!

    The site also has a very effective search engine; I usually find what I am looking for even if I do not use exact key words. The site also has tips for trainers, including help for establishing an effective training atmosphere. Need more help? Staff are available to take your calls during normal office hours, happy to help you find the information you need to make your training sessions successful.

  • Training Resources: State Agencies

    Certainly, turn to your state agency for various training tools. For example, I found five training PowerPoint presentations on the Ohio Department of Education site: But don’t limit yourself to your state agency; check out the websites of other agencies! For example, I found 10 training PowerPoint presentations on the Washington Child Nutrition site: Visit this USDA portal page,, to find state agency links all across the country.

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