Jason Edwards is the Director of Child Nutrition at Stafford Municipal School District in Stafford, Texas. The district spans five campuses with four cafeteria sites and serves 3,200 students.
Working in the education foodservice industry for the past 20 years, Edwards said that he saw first-hand how important food presentation was in regards to improving meal participation and healthy eating in schools. When he accepted the director position at Stafford, he made it his mission to revamp the cafeterias.
Edwards wanted to build a brand for the foodservice department to “pizzazz up” the cafeteria and create a fun atmosphere and inviting environment for the students. His secondary goal was to design a cafeteria that would improve the presentation of the food because everyone, kids especially, “eat with their eyes first.”
Edwards wanted a design that felt bright, fresh and airy and communicated a healthy lifestyle without being too overbearing. He also wanted each and every element to blend together with branding coordination. His biggest fear was just slapping paint on the wall without any cohesiveness. And finally, since they were making a big design investment, he wanted something that students could benefit from for 10+ years and not tire of it.
The biggest challenge for Edwards was not anything related to ISI, or the design, but it was obtaining administration buy-in for a $35,000 complete cafeteria overhaul. Said Edwards, “without direct industry experience or past results to base their decision on, some of the administrators were reluctant to make such a large investment on a branding or marketing campaign.”
Edwards and ISI also developed an over-arching brand for the entire department, which they titled “FuelCafe” and aligned all design elements with this branding focus.
Edwards credits ISI for providing an entire design package that went through no more than two or three rounds of revisions and also obtained administrative buy-in for the project.
Edwards says that the cafeteria remodels have been extremely successful. When he started in the school district in 2007, the foodservice team had $150,000 in its fund balance and now they have nearly $500,000.
In 2007, the foodservice department brought in under $1.5MM in revenue. By 2012, due to the remodel, they saw a 30 percent increase in revenue with $2.1MM in total food service revenue annually. In addition, the added revenue has allowed the district to offset approximately $150,000 per year in indirect costs to the general fund.
An added benefit? He says his foodservice employees are happier and they have seen less than a 10 percent turnover rate per year.
When Edwards started in the school district, the foodservice team had $150,000 in its fund balance and now they have over $500,000.