Fresh Bites Spring Edition 2022

Vice President’s Message

President Elect’s Message



Hello Friends, You may have heard about the Governor’s initiative to transfer the administration of the federal USDA Child Nutrition Program from the State Education Department (SED) over to the Department of Agriculture & Markets. NYSNA supports this initiative and understands the opportunity this presents. We are greatly appreciative of the advancements and support of SED and its specialists. The request for the agency switch is in my opinion, not a rebuke of the past but a decision based on the future. NYSNA’s initial ask and current support, is in response to what was being stated by its membership then as well as to the challenges we are facing now. Currently the NYS 30% Initiative is being evaluated by our state education professionals. However it has been NYS Agriculture & Markets that has been our partner in getting the certification for our NYS products. NYS Agriculture & Markets has been the

Hello School Meal Heroes! I hope this message finds you well and looking forward to the warmer weather and sunshine of the spring. Yes I realize we are in New York and we still have March to get through, but there’s no harm in daydreaming… I had the opportunity to attend SNA’s School Nutrition Industry Conference (SNIC) in San Antonio last month. We heard from several great speakers and received updates from USDA and SNA. The conference provided a great opportunity to meet with and discuss challenges with our industry partners. One key takeaway was that we are all struggling with supply chain issues and labor shortages. While it’s not necessarily uplifting to hear that we are “all the same boat”, it does provide some solace to know you are not alone in the struggle. One of the keynote speakers at SNIC was Ron Hetrick who spoke about “The Demographic Drought.” Nationwide labor shortages were predicted years prior to the pandemic as baby boomers were retiring and subsequent generations were not available in the same numbers to


Vice President


source of our Farm to School movement, grant funding and our local food procurement resource. NYS Agriculture & Markets has various committees that allows us to discuss and address issues in our programs. When it comes to support for feeding our communities healthy food, NYS Agriculture & Markets has been consistently our best ally. They have made our mission one of their top priorities.

fill the void. What we learned about the current workforce is that many of them received at least some form of higher education leaving the biggest gaps in the frontline workforce. Additionally, due to the pandemic, immigration to the US was nearly non-existent in 2020. While this all sounds pretty bleak, there are some areas of opportunity to improve on our current labor situation. These are not one size fits all, but perhaps you can find one or two ways to again “reimagine” your program and staffing: We heard from several districts that have been able to offer a variety of bonuses including sign on bonuses, retention bonuses, referral bonuses, and longevity bonuses. If this is a possibility for your district, take a look at the times of the year when you typically lose the most staff and try to time the bonuses accordingly. I don’t know about you but lately we are so happy (desperate) to have a new sub or employee that we “throw them to the fire” without giving them all the tools they need to succeed. Spending more time with new employees during training and orientation will help them to feel like they are supported and a part of the team. The key here is long term retention. Many of our employees may not understand that there are advancement opportunities in our field that are attainable for them. Provide them the support and training they need to advance. Again let’s retain the staff we have! This can take some outside of the box thinking, but is there a way you can utilize part time staff from another department (ex: transportation) to cover a serving line during lunch? Are you working with your PTAs to advertise the positions you have with those amazing family friendly hours? Can you work with your local culinary schools or vocational students to provide internship hours? I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend SNIC and I am looking forward to more learning opportunities over the next 2 years. I plan to utilize these experiences to bring back something that is useful to all NYSNA members that my not be able to attend. If you are interested in hearing more about SNIC and innovative labor solutions, feel free to reach out. I’d love to hear from you! Caitlin Lazarski, MS, RD, SNS NYSNA President Elect Caitlin Lazarski is the Director of School Nutrition for Newburgh Enlarged City School District, the district where she grew up and is currently raising her family. Caitlin is a Registered Dietitian with a Master’s Degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Delaware. - Caitlin - Offer Bonuses On Board and Train QUICKLY Offer a Career Partner with Outside Agencies/Associations

Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great. - John D. Rockefeller

These comments are in no way seeking to denigrate our team in SED that has been with us. I make the point that we need them as well hand in hand with the team that has boots on the ground. Recently, we’ve all learned from the supply chain shortages and labor deficiencies that there are gaping vulnerabilities in our food supply. It is my humble opinion that strengthening our local food sources and distribution chains is more important now than ever before. To keep it local, we’ve been doing monthly tastings on our menus by using produce from area producers. Most recently, we served organic carrots which became an immediate favorite. The farm connections, funding and distribution were worked out with our farm to school operators through grants and support from the department of Agriculture & Markets. “ Anybody interested in solving, rather than profiting from, the problems of food production and distribution will see that in the long run the safest food supply is a local food supply, not a supply that is dependent on a global economy. Nations and regions within nations must be left free and should be encouraged to develop the local food economies that best suit local needs and local conditions. - Wendell Berry

- Naim -

NaimWalcott Naim Walcott is the Food Service Director for the Westhampton Beach UFSD in Westhampton Beach, NY. He has been in the foodservice industry for over 20 years. The last decade of which has been in school nutrition management and service programs. He currently serves on the Long Island School Nutrition Directors Association and LI Food Purchasing Cooperative. Some of his professional history includes banking as well as polysomnography. With a diverse background in service, Naim focuses on improving the food quality and the student’s experience from service to bite. He also does woodwork and hikes, citing Breakneck Ridge in Coldsprings, NY as one of his favorite trails. NYSNA Vice President







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