Digitizing the pencil-and-paper process of school menu planning

Product / Cartewheel

The National School Lunch Program is responsible for serving more than 30 million kids a day—a task that comes with big challenges and a lot of red tape.

Before any food gets on a child’s cafeteria tray, menu planners have to navigate a tangled web of bureaucracies—government regulations, food distributor logistics and pricing, as well as school district procurement procedures. Many school food service directors are still using pencil, paper, and binders (lots of binders) as their main tools in doing their work and any mistake can create millions of dollars in compliance costs.  It’s easy to imagine how these folks can become frustrated by such an intimidating and time-consuming process. When we first got together with Coylar Technology Services and Gold Star Foods, we all agreed that the situation needed to change.

A platform built in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture.

We conceived and built Cartewheel, a menu planning app that takes all the complexity of today’s process and simplifies it, allowing  planners to focus on food that kids enjoy, that tastes great, and is sourced from the best suppliers while ensuring constant compliance with NSLP nutrition standards.

We partnered closely with the USDA throughout our development cycles. As a result of our collaboration, they removed redundant specifications and added notices regarding modern accessibility standards. In a big win for the app, we were able to get our auto-suggest calculation features approved by the USDA—an optimization that had previously been blocked.

We really love everything you are doing. It truly seems like something that is being made for us.”

Cartewheel User, Montana


Cartewheel received USDA approval and is currently in use throughout the United States. 🍎

In less than 2 years from the start of development, Cartewheel became one of only 12 tools to meet the rigorous standards for USDA-approval for menu planning software. Cartewheel began its initial launch in Summer 2018. Within 3 months, Cartewheel received inquiries for demonstration from 100’s of school districts. It resulted in purchases from 3 state governments for all their school districts, along with more than 25 individual districts in the US. Within a year, Cartewheel was helping serve more than 100,000 students across the country.