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Team Up for School Nutrition Success

Includes an overview of the Team Up for School Nutrition Success Initiative, background and history, trainings and registration information, resources, policy, and contact information.


Team Up for School Nutrition Success (Team Up) is a training initiative developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Institute of Child Nutrition (ICN) and implemented by the California Department of Education (CDE) Nutrition Services Division (NSD). This unique learning experience serves to enhance a school’s food service operation by providing peer-based technical assistance to School Nutrition Program (SNP) food service directors. This training model connects seasoned and successful Food Service Directors (FSD) with FSDs who are new or interested in improving their school food service operations.

Background and History

As schools continue to move forward with implementation of healthier school meals, the USDA identified a need for a model of sharing best practices across the country. As a result, the USDA partnered with the ICN to develop the Team Up for School Nutrition Success initiative. The initiative consists of customized training and peer-to-peer mentorship to assist schools in implementing school meal requirements with financial stability and strong student meal program participation. This allows schools to address their individual resource and training needs, as many face unique challenges and obstacles.

The ICN conducted a pilot workshop in Mississippi in November 2014. Fifty-three school food authorities were paired with 27 mentors in order to provide peer-to-peer mentorship on issues ranging from financial management to student participation. Based on the successes and lessons learned from the pilot, the initiative was expanded to seven Food and Nutrition Service regional Team Up workshops nationwide. California participated in the Western Region workshop and mentor training June 15–17, 2015, in San Diego. A total of 28 California FSDs participated and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

The next expansion of the initiative took place in 2016 and state agencies nationwide were encouraged to facilitate their own Team Up workshops. So, the CDE NSD committed to conducting more of these workshops. In fall 2016, the CDE NSD hosted two Team Up workshops, one in Sacramento and one in Ontario. Each workshop consisted of 15 mentors and 45 mentees and the focus of the workshops were on increasing participation and farm-to-school. Following the workshops, both mentors and mentees expressed that it was well-worth their time to attend. In fact, this is what one mentor had to say: “The training was the best training I have ever attended in my 20 years as a school food service director.” Robert Schram, Director, Campus Catering. Clovis Unified School District.

The CDE NSD successfully hosted Team Up workshops in winter 2018 and winter 2019 in both northern California (Sacramento) and southern California (Pomona). This is what some of the participants had to say about the workshops:

  • “Please have more of these! This was the most inviting and helpful training I’ve been to so far! New Directors need help.” Laurie Fonseca, Food Service Manager (Director), Mountain View Elementary School District.

  • “I learned so much about what other districts are doing and how!” Carissa Iwamoto, Operations Specialist, Fallbrook Union Elementary School District.

  • “I have a solid foundation to now run a grab and go breakfast!” Terah Gordon, Food Director, Inland Leaders Charter School.

  • “Learned so many ideas on how to overcome challenges and create participation and create student, parent buy-in.” Anne Scimone, Alpine Union School District.

  • “I gained valuable information on how to improve my district breakfast and lunch participation.” Fausat O Rahman-Davies, Assistant Director, Rialto USD.

Specifically when asked, “What was the best part of the workshop?” participants stated:

  • Mentoring circles
  • Learning what other districts are doing
  • Sharing ideas
  • Networking

Due to the success of the peer-based training model and positive feedback from participants, the NSD is committed to offering more of these workshops.


Workshop Overview
Workshop Structure
Workshop Registration Instructions

Workshop Overview

The Team Up For School Nutrition Success workshop is tailored to schools and participants have the opportunity to learn from each other in order to make positive strides toward providing healthy school environments with strong student participation.

These one-day workshops consist of panel presentations and peer-to-peer mentorship to assist FSDs in developing goals and action plans to enhance their school food service operation. FSDs will learn from each other while addressing their individual resource and training needs. The workshop format includes one mentor working with three participants (3:1 ratio) to provide effective peer-to-peer mentoring on a variety of topic areas.

Workshop Structure

Team Up for School Nutrition Success delivers training and information in two ways: panel discussions and breakout sessions. During the panel discussions, mentors offer creative solutions for implementing the regulations at the local level. The breakout session will group participants with mentors in an effort to provide effective peer-to-peer mentoring in a variety of topic areas. Networking also offers opportunities to encourage the generation of ideas for improvement in topic areas.

Panel Discussion: The panel discussions will consist of three mentors giving ten to fifteen minute presentations on one of three topic areas for the workshop. A fifteen minute question and answer session will be facilitated at the end of the panel discussion to capture all questions for that session.

Breakout Sessions: The breakout sessions are designed to connect participants with mentors to assist in identifying goals and action plans related to the topic areas. Each participant will go through a problem management model designed to help individuals work through issues. Breakout groups will consist of four individuals––one mentor with three participants (3:1 ratio) grouped upon the size of the districts. Participants are encouraged to change mentors from topic to topic. This is done to give participants the opportunity to get different perspectives on each topic area and find networking opportunities. However, participants should not be forced to change groups if they found a good fit for the mentoring process.

Skilled Helper Model

The Skilled Helper Model by Gerard Egan (2014) is the formal structure used to help participants identify and resolve issues currently impacting their SNP. The Skilled Helper Model is designed to help participants ask and answer four fundamental questions:

  • What is going on in my school nutrition program? (current picture)
  • What does a better outcome look like? (preferred picture)
  • How do I get to the better outcome? (the way forward)
  • How do I make it all happen?


  1. Mentors consist of school nutrition directors from SNPs who have successfully implemented the new meal pattern requirements and school nutrition directors of SNPs striving for success.  Mentors are considered helpers for the participants (mentees). The mentor’s key role is to help participants identify any challenges they are facing at the local SNP and help participants create solutions to those challenges through the development of goals and action plans.

  2. Mentees consist of school nutrition directors from SNPs who are looking for best practices that can be implemented in their SNP.

The mentor will encourage participants as they work through each step of the Skilled Helper Model. The participants are to identify their own problem and identify ideal solutions, but they may need some assistance from the mentor. The mentor should be a resource for the participants. The idea is for the mentor to share knowledge and help as needed to identify solutions.

Action Plan

The overall goal of Team UP for School Nutrition Success is to assist school nutrition directors in developing targeted action plans to address the issues they are facing in the topic areas. During the breakout sessions, participants will spend time working on the action plans to be taken back to their school districts. The participants are expected to create SMART goals based on the information they have learned during the panel discussions and the breakout sessions and create a plan of action. SMART goals are defined as goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

A workbook/worksheets guide participants through the Skilled Helper Model as follows:

  • Task 1A.  The Story (discuss problems)
  • Task 1B.  The Real Story (reflect and take a closer look)
  • Task 1C.  The Right Story (discuss key areas to work on)
  • Task 2A.  Possibilities (discuss what the participant wants the future to look like)
  • Task 2B.  Goals/Outcomes (set SMART goals)
  • Task 2C.  Commitment (help participants commit to goals made)
  • Task 3A.  Possible Strategies (identify possible paths to goals and strategies to achieve goals)
  • Task 3B.  Best Fit Strategies (identify the best strategies for the particular program)
  • Task 3C.  Viable Plan (organize strategies to accomplish goals i.e. what to do first, second, third)

Workshop Registration Instructions

To register for a workshop, please visit the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) Training Registration web page External link opens in new window or tab.. Instructions for registration are available at the CDE CNIPS Training Registration web page.

For assistance with online registration or if you are unable to attend and require a cancellation, please contact the CNIPS Help Desk weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. by phone at 800-952-5609, Option 6, or by email at If possible, please provide your registration confirmation number when cancelling your registration.


Team Up Training Webinars External link opens in new window or tab.
The ICN offers archived Webinars on topics such as: Team Up for Procurement, Team Up and Professional Standards, Team Up for Innovative Menu Planning, and many more.

Team Up for School Nutrition Success Workbook External link opens in new window or tab.
This comprehensive manual for the Team Up for School Nutrition Success program covers such topics as financial management, food safety, increasing participation, menu planning, plate waste, Smart Snacks, and special nutrition needs.

Policy Guidance

The USDA issued a policy memoranda related to the Team Up Initiative.

Release Date Issued by Subject Reference Number
March 2017


For questions regarding the Team Up Initiative, or are interested in participating in future Team Up workshops, please contact the California Department of Education Nutrition Services Division by phone at 800-952-5609 or by email at

Follow @CDENutrition on Twitter.

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Friday, September 11, 2020
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