COMMITTEES Public Policy & Legislation
SCHOOL NUTRITION ASSOCIATION ARTICLE RE-SHARE
Cafeteria Site Visit 101 M eeting with a Member of Congress (MOC) , or their congressional staff, is a very effective way to convey a message about a specific issue or legislative matter. A cafeteria site visit can give your MOC s a firsthand look at how school nutrition programs operate. More importantly, it demonstrates to MOC s your expertise and knowl- edge by providing them with a snapshot of what you do on a daily basis; i.e. how the school nutrition programs work, how many children you feed, the size of your school district, and any concerns that you may have with the programs in general. Below are some suggestions to consider when planning a cafeteria site visit in your school district. A checklist is also included to help make the visit a huge success. Let’s get started! CAFETERIA SITE VISIT 101
This information can be included as part of the “take away” packet. Realize that you will have a limited amount of time with the MOC . It is your job to make sure that you utilize his/her time wisely. The MOC ’s time is extremely valuable and your site visit is most likely part of an already packed schedule.
You will probably be asked to submit your request in writing. In your request, please explain your purpose and who you represent (name of school and location). It is easier for Congressional staff to arrange a meeting if they know what you wish to discuss and your relationship to the area or interests represented by the MOC . Don’t forget to build in enough lead time with your request. Schedules book up quickly. In the event the MOC cannot accept your in- vitation for the cafeteria visit, please encourage a staff member who handles nutrition issues to attend on his/her behalf. A staff member is a great substitute for the MOC since this person typically handles these types of issues on a daily basis. The opportunity to establish a relation- ship with the staffer is critical for future conversations. BE PREPARED It is important to have an agenda to compliment the timeframe of the visit. Take some time to develop what you want to showcase and highlight. Re- member, this is your time to shine. Have a “welcoming committee” meet the MOC at the front of the school. It is also important to have information and mate- rials specific to your school on hand at the time of the site visit. These materials could include: n Size of your school district n Numbers of meals served on a daily basis n Background information on the lunch and breakfast programs n Background information on the impact of your school nutrition program on the local economy—jobs cre- ated and support to the local community n Details on any special events that are unique to your school addressing healthy eating, such as nutrition education programs n Contact information for the the nutrition staff
To increase your odds of success, it is recom- mended that you arrange a time during a scheduled Congressional district work period or recess. Most district work periods are scheduled around the federal govern- ment’s holiday schedule. A calendar listing this informa- tion can be obtained at the MOC ’s district office, or at the SNA website. When arranging the
PLAN THE VISIT CAREFULLY
n Showcase improved food offerings, such as an increase in fresh fruits or vegetables or Farm to School foods n Highlight the success of a Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program n Discuss the quality and quantity of the commodity foods used in your nutrition program n Discuss the importance National School Lunch Week and National School Breakfast Week play in the educational process. Invite the MOC to join in any coordinated promotional activities.
Be clear about what it is you want to achieve. The purpose of the visit, or tour, is to educate the MOC on what programs you implement. It is also a good time to showcase your pro- grams and answer any questions concerning those programs. Most MOC s are not experts on these issues. That is why they
cafeteria site visit, aim for a time when the children are being served their meals and build the visit around this. Remember, the purpose of the site visit is to see the
look to the experienced professionals in this field—you. You are a most valuable resource to them. Therefore, you are in a prime position to educate them about the programs which may assist them in doing their job even more effectively. Suggestions for potential activities and education topics for your MOC : n Visit a school with a high or low percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals to identify need n Showcase new serving lines that increased participation or increased consumption of fruits, veg- etables or whole grain products n Visit a school with high participation in the breakfast program or with alternative serving methods, such as breakfast in the classroom n Showcase nutrition education activities and how the cafeteria is used as a classroom to teach students about proper nutrition
MAKE AN APPOINTMENT
programs in action. Build your educational components, along with the most important issues you wish to cover, into the agenda at the beginning. And, remember to leave ample time for questions throughout the entire visit. In addition, it is also im- portant to extend an invitation to your local media outlets to cover this event. Not only can the local newspaper provide coverage for the MOC , your school can also be highlighted in the local news. If you are successful in getting a member of the press to attend, make sure to have a location identified for a photo with the MOC and the children.
You will first need to determine which Member of the U.S. House of Representatives represents your district and then contact his/her District office or the Washington, D.C. office. Don’t forget to include your U.S. Senators as well. (This contact
information is available online at SNA’s Action Network— www.schoolnutrition.org/takeaction. All you need is your zip code.) After you contact the office of your MOC , ask to speak with the aide who handles child nutrition pro- grams. Identify yourself as a constituent and tell the aide you would like to discuss the possibility of the MOC being your guest at your school. Be sure to tell the aide what the purpose of your call is (a firsthand look at the cafeteria) and what it is you hope to achieve (better un- derstanding of the child nutrition programs).
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