Tim Butts is a food service director with Aramark K-12 in Beloit, Wisconsin. Upon first speaking with Tim, his food expertise, passion and dedication quickly become apparent. He has over 15 years of experience in the industry, and it was our privilege to hear how he has been serving the Beloit school district and helping guide it with unique solutions and seasoned leadership.
Not every school district has its own food truck, but Beloit is fortunate to have two. When asked how the district came to be the proud owners of two caravanning cafeterias, Tim explains, “Just as the Covid shutdowns were happening, Beloit was getting these food trucks ordered. Unfortunately, things came to a halt, but the trucks were finally delivered last summer. After a big kickoff event, we’ve been integrating them into the program. They’re custom built and designed with everything we wanted. We’ve even added a popcorn machine and two pizza ovens. They’re top of the line.” Students participated in a naming and design contest, and the trucks were christened The Lunch Box and Cruisin’ Cuisine.
Tim has found innovative ways to not only serve the kids but to also serve employees and parents. He says, “We have a full summer feeding program, and the food trucks will be integrated into that. We do a spring and fall rotation, and we do catering and special events with them. We’re also doing events like parents’ night at schools.”
Tim’s TipsPerhaps the biggest takeaway from speaking with Tim is his can-do attitude. “It all started with an idea, and it grew into this. Nothing is too big in the grand scheme of things.”
Fortitude and commitment are also paramount when serving a school district located in the often-chilly upper Midwest. “A couple of times during the fall rotation, we’d be on the truck wearing coats with the cold wind blowing through there, but the kids were still just as excited to come out and see it. It was a unique experience.”
Of course, it’s all about keeping the kids happy — as difficult as that may be. He says, “You’ve got to listen to the students and do the best you can to give them what they want. But there’s all the other stuff you have to balance as well: food costs, nutrition and all the rest. I think acknowledging the student voice is the biggest part to keeping them happy. It can be hard —really hard — but if you keep that in the back of your mind and strive to do that, I think it really helps and keeps the program moving.”
Sometimes the little things can make a big difference — like the simple joy of classic cereals. Tim relayed a recent anecdote, “We changed back to a more normal service style and did cereal the other day, and I heard students commenting how excited they were to have a bowl of cereal — and I thought that was kind of cool.”
What Does the Future Look Like?Like much of the rest of the world, the desire for normalcy is ever present, and Tim is doing all he can to find ways of helping students navigate the “now normal.” “They want to get back to how things were before the pandemic. They want to get back to normal. My biggest goal is getting back to those customized offerings.”
Tim recognizes that once the pandemic recedes, there will still be pandemic-era practices that continue to be implemented. "There will be an emphasis on food safety. It’s just going to take time to balance everything.”
As for what drives Tim, he says, “We need to keep pushing forward. What’s really important to me is being a good partner to the district and running their program.”
We’d like to extend a huge shoutout and thank you to Tim Butts for all he does to keep students happy, well fed and on the right path to success.
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