With the assessment complete, Nardin Academy's leadership team was left to decide what to do with newfound information about the school's food program. Should Nardin build a new kitchen? Design a new menu? Should Nardin coordinate with its foodservice provider? How would the school address environmental concerns? What would the community think?
Before anything gets done, I suggest breaking down internal silos and getting everyone together who has a stake in the project. Future posts will discuss this process and how Nardin engaged its community of staff, parents, and students to create shared enthusiasm, support, and reception around a new program. However, the leadership team will ultimately drive and decide on change. With that in mind, let's introduce the individuals closest to this project at Nardin Academy as they will be integral to our story moving forward.
Marsha Sullivan, president of Nardin Academy, was careful in making any change as the current foodservice provider had a rich history of providing the school with a valued food program. However, in recent years the school had gone through accreditation and formed various committees around teaching social justice as part of the school's overall mission. One committee was an environmental one whose discussion moved from environment to health and from health to food. Marsha recognized that a mentality was organically growing in the school around food and the cafeteria. She listened and witnessed as this conversation evolved through the committee, the students, the staff, the board and the parents.
Leslie Johnson, vice president of finance and operations, would end up spearheading the project. She was tasked with redesigning Nardin's kitchen but decided to investigate what would really contribute to a change in quality and address things like waste and valuing those who work in the food system — important points in being socially just. Leslie sat on the committee mentioned above, brought me in to do the assessment, and is currently overseeing the program.
The leadership team faced more than a business decision. As an independent school, sustainability means something more. It encompasses the entire institution and how to retain longevity for years to come as an asset to students' educations. They saw the cafeteria as a huge opportunity to increase the value of the Nardin experience while integrating education, community, environmental, and financial goals.
With a big change there has to be a shared vision that can get everyone moving in the same direction together. However, without the people at the top nothing gets done. Nardin's leaders would achieve a shared vision, but it looks different at each organization. Whether you care about nutrition, education, conservation, agriculture, fair wages, local economies, food preferences, sales, or following USDA standards, everyone needs to share that vision and understand why it is important to the success of their organization.
Both Marsha and Leslie are exceptional leaders because they listen and are curious and open. Masters of their craft tend to operate in an all knowing, "so I've heard," mentality and do not speak in certainty. But Marsha and Leslie walk as journeymen. Even though they are masters of their craft they also admit that they do not know everything...especially when it came to the cafeteria. Having a strong and committed leadership team makes a consultant's job so much easier. Working as a team leads to the best decision making.
Now that we've met the leadership team, watch for my next post to find out where the school decided to go after the assessment.