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Get to Know Your K-12 Team

Learn how our expert culinary team and bid season coordinators are here to bring you insights, inspirations and industry knowledge to make menu planning easier.

K-12 Team by Land O’Lakes Culinary Center

At Land O’Lakes, we understand the importance of having a group of dedicated culinary experts at your fingertips. Our team of seasoned chefs and bid season coordinators is an integral part of school districts nationwide and is always ready to provide in-depth industry knowledge while equipping key decision-makers with the proper tools and resources.  

Our chefs, nutritionists and K-12 experts each have a diversified background with decades of experience in the industry, so you can confidently navigate bid season, product procurement, menu development and more. From culinary education masters and flavor-profile connoisseurs to registered dietitians, our team of passionate foodservice professionals is committed to making menu development easier every step of the way.

Chef Susie  

Q: What do you love about working in the K-12 space?
 I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love K-12. The collaboration in the channel is so unique and different. There’s no negative competition. Everybody is looking to each other for advice. We have a whole team dedicated to K-12. R&D scientists, culinary staff, bid specialists, really a whole team of people to reach out to for help.  

Q: How do you want K-12 operators to use you as a resource?
I hope they know they can look to us for recipes and menu planning. We can create recipes that fit within the USDA guidelines, thanks to our incredible Land O Lakes® products. There are a lot of government regulations, so it’s important to have a team of experts and nutritionists who can make sure they are being met.  

Q: What’s an unexpected part of your job?
The creativity and collaboration that goes into our work. When you have limited tools or rigid regulations, it forces you to be creative. We try to get into the mindset of school operators and understand that they only have so much storage space. It’s important for them to know how one SKU or recipe can be as versatile as possible. I feel energized when we generate ideas and solutions for our K-12 operators

Chef Maggie 

Q: Why are school meals so important to kids? 
 K-12 directors and operators play a critical role in modeling healthy eating habits. In some cases, school meals are the only access some kids have to a well-balanced plate filled with protein, grains, fruits, vegetables and dairy.
Schools can also expose children to new foods. Even if kids always take the same vegetable, like carrots, just seeing the broccoli or green beans may influence them to branch out and try it in the future.  

Q: What challenges are top of mind in K-12, and how is Land O’Lakes ready to support?
 Three things at the top of everyone’s minds are the target three sodium guidelines, status of actual reimbursement for meals and supply chain issues.
Reducing sodium in school lunches can be a challenge. Our Land O Lakes® cheese sauces have been formulated to deliver only 400 milligrams of sodium per meat alternative to help meet current and future targets. They’re also shelf-stable, so they don’t take up valuable space in freezers or refrigerators.
While we can’t influence the budget changes that will come along if school meal reimbursements end, we do offer the Cool School Cafe® Rewards program to help operators earn points on product purchases that can be used as incentives or to buy kitchenware when budgets are tight.
We also recognize that supply chain disruptions can be a real headache. That’s why our team has created recipe collections and a guide for product substitutions that can help make menu pivots less painful. 

Bid Season Coordinator, Alethia 

Q: What is your favorite part of being a bid season coordinator?
 I love it because it’s always evolving. School district procurement regulations and USDA requirements change every year. There’s always something new to learn, and I love the idea of supporting school districts by trying to make their jobs as easy and seamless as possible.  

Q: What’s one piece of advice you’d want to share with K-12 operators putting together a bid?
 My advice would be to keep it simple and avoid making the evaluation criteria too complex. Simple is better. Also, there are a lot of new online platforms for managing bid submissions and many of them have great benefits. Exploring those options cuts down on paperwork and can make bid development that much easier.  

Q: What tools and bidding resources does Land O’ Lakes® offer school districts?
 Land O Lakes recently invested in a new planning tool for school districts. The ProcessorLink Commodity Calculator Dashboard is a streamlined system that allows operators to easily plan and manage their commodity balances for all participating processors in one integrated site. 


Want to know even more about the Land O’Lakes Foodservice team? Click here to learn more about each foodservice expert and find more tips and tricks to help in your kitchen.  

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