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How to Maximize Your Educational Food Budget in 2024

If it seems like everywhere you look, people are trying to maximize their budget and decrease their spending, it is because they are. Day-to-day costs have been higher than ever, resulting in new challenges for K-12 schools and higher ed. institutes. As we approach 2024, let’s make sure you know the best ways to save money on your education-related food expenses!

In case you are new to the procurement or food spend world, let’s do a refresh on some of the challenges you may be facing!

Food is impacted by market changes. As costs go up, budgets are stretched. This can include ingredients (which effects colleges and universities most often) and pre-made foods (more likely to impact K-12 schools).

Another budgetary issue is the cost of employing people to work in the school and higher education kitchens. When there’s a shortage of employees, you must make the job more appealing to attract quality workers. This includes increasing the wages for new employees. Yes, you can try to get by with fewer employees, but that means sacrificing quality and can also go against labor laws, which will cost you overall.

Speaking of laws, compliance plays into educational food budgets as well. Whether it’s kitchen regulations or food safety standards, remaining compliant can take up a lot of funds.

Regarding standards, K-12 schools need to meet USDA guidelines and many colleges have sustainability initiatives to follow. Of course, everyone wants students to have healthy food options, but it can be challenging to follow the standards set while also staying within budget.

Here are a couple challenges that often fly under the radar when thinking about cost:

Food waste: There is a delicate dance between providing enough food while also keeping waste minimal. It is imperative to remember that if too much food is made and then not used, revenue may not match up with spending.

Allergies: This can also include preferences, but keeping options for those who are gluten-free or allergic to certain foods (or choosing to abstain from animal products), can increase costs. This seems to especially impact universities.

Kitchens: It is inevitable that kitchen appliances will eventually require maintenance. Same goes for replacing linens, aprons, and the like. Finding cost-effective ways to keep your kitchen running is paramount to your food program budget.

Enrollment: Fluctuations in student enrollment and changes in dietary preferences can impact the demand for food services. Schools and universities must be agile in adjusting their offerings to meet evolving needs, which may have financial implications.

Before you panic, these challenges do not have to make or break your budget. There are solutions and they are easier to implement than you may think. Let’s run through them together starting with the biggest one:

Sign up for a free OMNIA Partners membership. Yes, free, and yes, it is that simple.

Okay, so there’s a bit more to it than that, but that’s where you will start. Once you sign up, we will become your partner in the procurement process, making sure you have everything you need to save money on your food programs. Here is how that works:

  • You’ll leverage the purchasing power of over 600,000 OMNIA Partners participants. All our contracts have been competitively solicited and publicly awarded by a lead agency, allowing you to “piggyback” off these contracts – you’ll save time and get access to better pricing and volume discounts.

  • You will also have access to a robust portfolio of vetted suppliers. This will ensure that you partner with the right ones to meet your school or university's unique needs. The result will be an optimized budget with a variety of quality food offerings.

  • We’ll make sure that your procurement plan is tailored to your school. Working directly with our leading suppliers, the OMNIA Partners team can customize food spend that accommodates your daily challenges, whether it’s sustainability, standards, or making sure you are catering to different dietary needs.

  • If you are worried about compliance, you won’t have to. We are committed to making sure that every supplier we work with is adhering to all standards, regulations, and rules that K-12 schools and universities must abide with. Same goes for sustainability initiatives. We are consistently monitoring our portfolio of suppliers to ensure proper protocol is followed.

  • The OMNIA Partners Subject Matter Experts will be on hand to answer any questions you may have and to offer insight as needed, serving as a knowledge hub for procurement professionals. We’ll offer ways to keep your food spend optimized while staying aligned with your core needs.

The best way to find out how to maximize your educational food program budget while saving time is to talk to one of our team members. You can also look at our solutions page to see the suppliers and contracts you will have access to. No matter how small your school, or how large your college, OMNIA Partners has the tools and resources to make your procurement process more efficient. If you’re ready to get started, contact us today!