We were inundated with letters responding to Eric Stoessel’s editorial last month asking school foodservice directors for their opinions on the increasingly public and political debate between the USDA and SNA on the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. He wondered what the people in the trenches really thought about the tougher requirements coming this year.
As you pointed out so well the intent of the regulations were noble and non-controversial, but as the say the “devil is in the details.” Speaking for my district, we are complying with the new regulations, but like so many others we are losing participation. We all knew this would happen and USDA has subsidized this fact by increasing the reimbursement we receive. But it’s not all about money….my issue is we have so many (did I emphasize many??) regulations.
It’s so crazy to try to explain—i.e., for breakfast the food is an item but at lunch it’s a component, we have to raise meal prices for the paying student even if we have a decent reserve in our budget, we have to force a student to take a half cup of fruit or vegetable…and on and on. It makes no sense.
I think I can say we all want to serve healthy food to our kids, but you cannot force feed them and we have so many competing forces on campus.
The other day I saw a high school boy walking on campus with a case of M & M’s. I asked him what club he is selling for and he said no one—he was just earning extra money. Teachers selling cup of noodles out of their classrooms like contraband—it goes on and on.
I’m also very concerned about the message we are sending. If we are concerned about obesity, then why do we force students to over consume? Granted taking a half cup of fruit or vegetable is not going to cause obesity, but it’s the message. I get students who just want to make a salad for lunch on one of our wonderful self-serve bars and we have to scrutinize if it contains the required number and amounts—just ludicrous.
I’ve been doing this many, many years and I see the program imploding and major burnout of staff. Let us do our jobs we will serve healthy food, but if the pressure is to be profitable so we don’t encroach on the schools general fund and we have so many paper pushing regulations then we have lost the true intent of the program.
Let us feed students like we provide textbooks. We would save money by not having the multiple layers of administration to offset the increased meal participation costs. We’d offer students a complete breakfast or lunch, but if they only want a partial, we'd allow them. It’s not that hard of a concept to understand. Thanks for listening.
Please add a PS. I received eight management bulletins this week on new regulation updates or clarifications.
Food Service Director