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.
The restrictions we expected to be implemented on our menus this fall are next to impossible to accomplish. I am a registered dietitian with 35 years in the business—I have the tools and experience to be able to calculate these restrictions, but feel like I am just spinning my wheels coming up with good menus that the kids will eat.
Two years ago the nation spent a lot of money on the two-ounce meat/meal alternative and grain restrictions training and certification process to have it rescinded around Christmas time that year. That was a ridiculous restriction feeding 200-pound young men and athletes that amount of food. That was an embarrassment, and I can say on many days I violated the restrictions.
The sodium mandate is very hard to achieve with sodium being such a natural part of many foods and particularly processed foods. Manufacturers have been asked to do next to the impossible.
I have always taken a great deal of pride in the food I serve. I have always directed systems that do a lot of scratch cooking. Many of the commodity items the government has available are sodium laden.
Many school foodservices do not have the advantage of having a registered dietitian to plan these types of meals and many good foodservice directors are frustrated beyond belief.
Our money for new equipment and decent wages is gained through a la carte sales and everything being whole grain and calorie- and sodium-restricted is not kid friendly.
To my knowledge Michelle Obama is not an elected official, and is not a registered dietitian. She has too much power in this matter.
Tini Van-Oehlertz, M.S., R.D.
Food Service Director
Pius X High School