The Urban School Food Alliance, a coalition of the largest school districts in the U.S., celebrated its one-year anniversary recently. The Alliance numbers the New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami-Dade, Dallas and Orange County (Orlando), FL, districts among its members and currently serves about 2.9 million students and close to 2.6 million meals daily. It procures more than $530 million in food and food supplies annually as it aims to use its purchasing power to help drive down costs of food and supplies and to have vendors reformulate menu items to produce delicious and nutritious school meal choices that meet USDA guidelines.
“We are proud to be a part of this Alliance because the work that we’ve been doing has never been done before,” says David Binkle, director of Food Services at Los Angeles USD. “Over the last year, the group has worked diligently to share best practices so that we all serve the healthiest and freshest possible meals to our students, at the best prices possible.”
The group officially formed during the 2012 SNA Annual National Conference in Denver. At this year’s meeting in Kansas City, the group aims to achieve the following:
· Align synergies in improving school food image, quality and procurement
· Standardize food and supply specification for food items such as chicken as well as supplies like serving utensils and plates
· Develop bid proposal documents
· Establish 2013-2014 communication plan
“We want to be innovative,” says Dora Rivas, executive director of Food & Child Nutrition Services at Dallas ISD. “Providing students with nutritious meals assures that they are prepared to meet the academic challenges of theday. But especially during these tough economic times, we, as food services directors, also want to make sure that we procure wisely without sacrificing quality.”