January 2018
Each new year brings new joys, new challenges, new experience, and a renewed sense of purpose. We each play an integral role in the child nutrition industry, whether that be developing new products to meet the nutrition standards, aiding in communication between industry partners, planning menus and recipes, shipping products from manufacturer to customer, or serving food directly to kids.
Interflex's goal, this year and every year, is to bring everyone together. We strive to efficiently connect each of the supply chain members in a way that benefits all. May these newsletters provide some insight into the industry, some helpful tips, and act as a nice side dish to our entree of solutions.
Wishing you all a very happy new year!
And as always, thank you for reading!

School Nutrition Industry Conference: January 21-23, 2018 in New Orleans, LA
This three day conference focuses on innovation in the industry. School nutrition professionals, vendors, and industry partners will come together to brainstorm fresh ideas, talk about the latest trends, and refresh their thinking for the new year! Learn more at https://schoolnutrition.org/Meetings/SNIC/2018/ .
SNA Virtual Expo 2018: February 6 - March 16, 2018
Visit vendor booths, attend education sessions, and chat with peers and exhibitors from the comfort of your desk! Registration for the Expo is free and opens this month - keep your eyes on http://schoolnutrition.org/meetings/virtual-expo/2018 for more information coming soon.  
Legislative Action Conference: March 4-6, 2018 in Washington, D.C.
LAC allows you to get involved with the legislative process, advocate for the millions of children that benefit from school nutrition programs each day, and come face-to-face with policy makers to increase their understanding and knowledge of the scope and complexity of school nutrition operations. Learn more at https://schoolnutrition.org/Meetings/LAC/2018/.  
BONUS: On March 5, celebrate school nutrition heroes with the School Nutrition Foundation. To nominate a school nutrition hero or learn more about this event, visit https://schoolnutrition.org/SNHeroesCelebration/
National School Breakfast Week: March 5-9, 2018   
Celebrate school breakfast and encourage students to eat well for their first meal of the day. Resources, tools, and more information are available at https://schoolnutrition.org/Meetings/Events/NSBW/2018.  

The Product database in BidAdvantage for Schools has been updated for 2018! There are over 3,200 products from 68 manufacturers available for school nutrition professionals to access with more being added every day.

If you already have a username and password for BidAdvantage for Schools, you can access the Product Database anytime by clicking to "Use a BidAdvantage Product" in your Specification Library.
Ready for a login to BidAdvantage for Schools? Contact us to get setup today.

It's not too late to add your products!
If you're a manufacturer and would like to have your products included in the database for schools, please get in touch with us for more information.

Program Simplification
The School Nutrition Association wants you to share your suggestions for streamlining regulations and paperwork for school meal programs. Please give your feedback at https://schoolnutrition.org.

The ICN Podcast
The Institute of Child Nutrition now has their very own podcast, called iBites. The podcast will include topics like the history of child nutrition, best practices, resources, and research. Check out episode one and subscribe at http://news.theicn.org/ibites_podcast_episode01.

BidAdvantage for Manufacturers

If you're a manufacturer with a BidAdvantage system, or if you're a broker who uses any of Interflex's systems for your manufacturers, you may notice that bid information is updating more quickly! The database used to update each manufacturer's system overnight to match any new bid information that was entered that day. Now, that information will update throughout the day as new bid information is entered by our team - no more waiting overnight!



BidAdvantage for Schools

All school districts and cooperatives using BidAdvantage for Schools will now have the ability to export specifications directly from the Specification Library page. To do this, use the search criteria at the top of your Spec Library to bring up the specifications that you wish to export, then click the gray "Export Library Specifications" button on the right hand side of the screen. The system will generate and Excel file for you to save and/or print.  





For cooperative buying groups that use BidAdvantage for Schools, you'll now see a column in the export available to you from the Volume Gathering portion of the system that includes the packaging information for each specification. As a reminder, this export contains your specification descriptions and the quantities entered for each item by cooperative participants. The packaging associated with each specification will now also appear. This update is meant to make it easier for participating schools to accurately calculate their estimated quantities for upcoming bids. 

Oatmeal is a comfort food for many, providing warmth during cooler months or evoking memories of childhood breakfasts. Beyond being delicious though, oatmeal offers many benefits. Here's a round-up of just a few reasons to enjoy a little more oatmeal this winter: 
  • Because it's naturally gluten-free, oatmeal provides a great source of whole-grains for those who may be sensitive to gluten or have Celiac disease. Be sure to check the product label to make sure gluten has not been introduced via added ingredients or cross-contamination during processing.
  • It's high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which are important in a balanced diet.
  • Oatmeal offers a wide variety of vitamins and minerals including thiamin, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, selenium, and iron.
  • One ounce of dry oatmeal (about one serving) provides approximately 4.2 grams of protein.
  • Oats and oat flour are generally considered whole-grain foods, so if you see oats or oat flour listed as an ingredient, you can rest assured that whole-grains are included!
  • Oatmeal can help lower bad cholesterol and may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and lower blood pressure.
Bulk versus Individual
Data from the AwardedBids.com database shows that the bid award price of oatmeal in bulk, per a 1 ounce dry serving, is holding steady at about $0.08 per serving. Oatmeal packaged in individual portions, however, increased from $0.19 to $0.20 (per a single ounce serving) between the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years. These prices are for the most popular packaging that we see for both bulk and individual oatmeal. As expected, buying in bulk is cheaper.  
What's in a Name? 
So what are all the different types of oatmeal that we see? Is steel cut oatmeal really any different than old fashioned oatmeal? We turned to the Whole Grains Council for answers.
Whole Groats
These are the whole kernels of the oat grain. They take the longest to cook and are rarely sold for culinary use.
Steel Cut Oats
Oat grains are sliced into two or three pieces using steel blades. This makes them quicker to cook because the water can penetrate the kernel more easily. This kind of oatmeal is also called "Irish Oatmeal".
Old Fashioned or Rolled Oats
Whole grain oats are steamed and then rolled flat into flakes. This makes the oats cook more quickly and helps them stay fresh longer because it stabilizes the oils in the oats.
Instant or Quick Cooking Oatmeal
Oat grains are sliced thin, steamed, rolled flat, and sometimes cut into smaller pieces. As the name implies, this type of oatmeal cooks the fastest.
Oat Recipes
Ready to get cooking? You can find a variety of recipes using oats for child nutrition programs from the USDA, like bread, muffins, and pancakes, at https://whatscooking.fns.usda.gov/.

Plant-based diets are becoming more popular for a variety of reasons, whether it be a personal choice, a religious reason, or a cultural tradition. Serving up plant-based meals can create a beneficial symbiotic relationship with initiatives you may already have in place such as school gardens or farm to school programs. And because many students today come from diverse backgrounds, serving traditionally plant-based dishes from a variety of cultures can help increase daily participation in your school meal program! Here are some facts, tips, and resources to help your plant-based diet thrive: 
USDA Foods are Available  
The USDA available foods for 2017-2018 includes lentils, a wide variety of beans, peanuts, peanut butter, and sunflower seed butter. Find the full list available at https://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/fdd/schools-institutions-foods-available18.pdf 
Know your Alternates  
All of the below items count as 1 oz. meat alternate in the Child Nutrition program and can be used in place of meat or dairy that would otherwise count as your M/MA in breakfast or lunch: 
  • 1/4 cup pulses (like beans or legumes)
  • 2 Tablespoons nut or seed butters (like peanut butter or sunflower seed butter)
  • 1 ounce nuts or seeds (like cashews or almonds)
  • 1/4 cup tofu
Web Resources
They say knowledge is power! Check out all of the great resources available online. Learn how-to, get creative, find the facts, and share with your friends: 
What are the Benefits?  
Cooking with legumes and tofu can seem intimidating, but the perks are worth it. For example, many plant proteins like beans, quinoa, and lentils can be purchased dry or canned in bulk and can be stored without refrigeration or a freezer and usually have a longer shelf life than meat or dairy products.
Cultivating plant-based meals and snacks can foster creativity and collaboration as well! Brainstorming new recipes, celebrations, and activities can help breathe new life into the school lunch line. The new plant-based items may even increase participation by including student tastes that differ from the traditional American's, such as curry or tabbouleh.  
Finally, the American Heart Association claims that "meat typically costs more per pound than other protein sources," and the data from the AwardedBids.com database shows a similar trend. The chart below shows the average price per pound for popular protein sources in k-12 school as they were awarded on bids for the 2016-2017 school year:
Don't forget Dessert  
Many desserts call for dairy products, which do not fit into a plant-based or vegan diet. While the milk is usually simple to substitute with nut or soy milk, the eggs can be tougher. Here are a few suggestions on how to replace an egg in any baked recipe:
1 Egg equals:
1/2 cup mashed banana
1/4 cup applesauce
1 Tablespoon ground flax seeds or flax meal and 2 Tablespoons of water
1/4 cup pureed silken tofu
3 Tablespoons aquafaba (the viscous water that's leftover after cooking legumes or beans)  

American Egg Board
Bimbo Bakeries USA
Hostess Brands
Lindy's Homemade
Preferred Meal Systems
Truitt Family Foods