School Leaders Toolkit

School leaders and administrators are tasked with making numerous decisions about how to best serve their students. To help guide that decision-making process and build common language and understanding around farm-to-school programming and child nutrition programs, we've compiled a guide with the information that you need (and want) to know. 


Improve meal quality through farm-to-school

Launch the virtuous cycle of expanding school meal programs, strengthening farm-to-school efforts, and improving meal quality. Building a school culture around the farm-to-school movement has a cyclical impact of increasing local procurement while simultaneously increasing meal program participation. 

Increase the number of families who complete & return School meal applications

The first step in establishing an impactful and sustainable meal program is ensuring that you are accounting for as many children who qualify for free meals as possible. By inviting all families to complete the school meal application and sharing information through as many communication channels as possible, you will 

Maximize use of federal programs and reimbursement

Understanding how many students are currently participating your breakfast and/or lunch programs, as well as other child nutrition programs you may be eligible to operate, will allow you to take action to improve the number of students taking part in these programs and increase the reimbursement you receive. These school data snapshots are updated annually and share information regarding how many students in your school qualify for free meals, how many students are accessing breakfast and lunch, and whether your school is eligible to serve afterschool meals and summer meals. 

Ensure Programs are Accessible to Students

Effectively marketing your meal programs and putting equitable practices in place can level the playing field to have as many students eating as possible without stigma. Strategies and resources we suggest include:

Support School Meal Program Staff

Professional development opportunities are both mandatory and critical for the viability of school meal programs. Understanding these requirements, support staff in taking advantage of meaningful learning opportunities, and connecting stakeholders outside of the cafeteria with professional development resources will help position your school to better serve its students. 

Create the school meal program you want

Where you're hiring new food service staff, deciding whether to contract with a food service management company, or looking to make other revisions to the way your program operates, we have sample language, templates, and resources to help navigate that process. 

Present a strong case for program changes

Ultimately, you may need to go to you school board to "sell" new child nutrition programs or changes to your meal program structure. Follow our steps to prepare for that meeting to present a case that is well-informed and well-supported.