Defending NSLP

The following article was released by the Associated Press and printed in Newsday on Jan. 11, 2003.

WASHINGTON—Contrary to activists' claims, kids aren't getting fat because they eat school lunches, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman contends.

Congress is expected to focus on debating the nutritional value of food served in school cafeterias as lawmakers discuss renewing school lunch and other child nutrition programs overseen by the Agriculture Department.

"We cannot blame obesity on child nutrition programs in this country," Veneman said in an interview with The Associated Press.

USDA is responsible for distributing food from surplus meat, vegetables and fruit to schools to feed school children. It also provides food for breakfast programs at some schools and gives them nutritional guidance.

School lunch is one of the food sources that the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a group favoring a vegetarian, lowfat diet, argues should be blamed for young people being overweight.

But Veneman noted that the government is not the primary food provider for children: "The bulk of the eating decisions, or the buying, is done by the parents."

The debate over school lunches came as the surgeon general warned in 2001 that obesity is an epidemic affecting 13 percent of children and 60 percent of adults. The announcement left many people wondering who is responsible, which foods are causing obesity and what can be done to trim waistlines.

Livestock groups rejected any share of the blame

"Where's the statistics, the backup that shows this is causing obesity?" said Kara Flynn, spokeswoman for the National Pork Producers Council. "It's an anti-meat attack, as usual."

The Food Research and Action Center, an advocacy group promoting the school lunch program, called the physicians' claims absurd.

School lunches are designed to meet USDA dietary guidelines for meat, grains, dairy, fruits and vegetables, said Lynn Parker, the center's director of child nutrition programs.

"We're not seeing high-calorie sodas as part of lunch. We're not seeing dessert items as a large part of lunch," Parker said.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
herb garden wall

In high-volume operations, few look at herb gardens as the end-all-be-all budgeting solution. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a return on the investment. The value, operators say, is in the message herb gardens and herb walls send—that an operation uses ingredients that are fresh, sustainable and healthy. Here’s how the growing areas have paid off at three operations.

A cafeteria wall at Miles River Middle School in South Hamilton, Mass., houses three rows of hydroponic lettuce spearheaded by an interdisciplinary group of health, science, math, technology and foodservice employees...
Managing Your Business
restaurant uniforms illustration

The standard foodservice uniform has undergone a makeover. Whether to make the job more appealing or extend personality to the guest, restaurants are allowing workers to express their individuality through what they wear, from T-shirts to bandannas to hipster-style aprons. Even in more conservative operations, staff can show their personality through uniforms, now offered in a wide range of colors, fits and styles. In choosing uniforms, operators also are weighing the message their workers’ wear sends, be it one of culinary skill and expertise, or a sense of camaraderie with the community...

Ideas and Innovation
rooster illustration

Sustainability is such a priority for Santa Rosa Junior College’s culinary arts program that produce often doesn’t even hit the cooler before becoming a meal. Students quickly transform the bounty of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy and more, harvested from the college’s own farm, into restaurant-quality dishes at the Culinary Cafe and Bakery. They learn the basics of agriculture, practice pivoting a menu based on seasonality, and compost as they cook.

It’s little wonder the program recently placed first in the CAFE/Kendall College Green Awards: This Northern California community...

Managing Your Business
alumni worker

It’s a sure sign that a school is doing something right when its students want to come back and work as adults. From the standpoint of the foodservice director, though, there is plenty to gain from retaining homegrown talent—call it the ultimate return on investment. In the wake of back-to-school season, two dining programs with a robust alumni contingent share their thoughts on hiring former customers.

Local expertise

At Georgia Southern University, about one-third of Eagle Dining Services’ 107 full-time employees are alumni. “They way we do things on our campus may be very...

FSD Resources