READY for What’s Next

Facing a third school year of exceptional challenges, leading school nutrition directors refuse to wave the white flag.

When the grim reality set in that SY2022-23 was likely to present school nutrition operators with the same (or even worse) economic conditions, and without the support of waiver flexibility and higher reimbursements, a gloomy pall prevailed in many conversations about the future. I’ve attended a variety of different listening sessions and forums where frustrations were plentiful, discouragement was high and questions about what resources, besides waivers, might prove helpful in meeting the challenges were met by awkward, stony silences.

Having charged myself a year ago with focusing on “What’s Next?” for this issue of School Nutrition, I felt similar discouragement about how I would meet this magazine’s mission to inspire and instruct, as well as inform. I reached out to a number of forward-leaning school nutrition directors—award winners, innovators, leaders, veterans—seeking can-do insights and ideas. Outreach attempts for commentary on other article topics published this spring had gone largely ignored. (I suspected a combination of people being too busy, too focused on daily troubleshooting and too disheartened.) So, I kept my expectations low for this piece.

Instead, I have been overwhelmed by the response to my request for examples of ingenuity in action, proactive steps and, best of all, affirmation that the challenges haven’t eclipsed passion or commitment. The title of this article could have been posed as the question that everyone’s asking. Instead, I am buoyed—and hope you will be, too—by a more declarative spirit. School nutrition heroes are ready—or will be—to face what comes next...

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