USDA, SNA strike optimistic tone at school show

School Nutrition Association, child nutrition

Against the backdrop of dissent and a politically charged debate over changing regulations, more than 6,500 child nutrition professionals met in Boston for the School Nutrition Association’s (SNA) Annual National Conference (ANC).

It’s no secret that lately there has been disagreement and hurt feelings between SNA, the USDA and the White House. A meeting between key players, including SNA member Wendy Weyer, from Seattle Public Schools, Sam Kass, executive director of Let’s Move!, and Tom Vilsack, USDA secretary, took place the week before ANC. Little was published about the meeting but several members involved said it was a step in the right direction.

Patricia Montague, CEO of SNA, said she was optimistic that the flexibilities in regulations the association was asking for would come to fruition, even against a veto threat from the White House should legislation come across the president’s desk containing changes to the rules. “We’re optimistic,” Montague said. “That’s what our members are. We’re hopeful that we’ll get some type of flexibility; we’re not sure what that will look like.”

Politico reported that Kass was declined an invitation to “rally the troops” at ANC this year, after being welcomed with open arms and adoring fans in previous years. Janey Thornton, the USDA’s deputy under secretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, was on hand, when she spoke at the second general session.

“I realize that this has not been easy. But you’ve worked and worked together to move forward. I’ve visited schools across the country and witnessed changes that 10 years ago would not have been possible,” she said.

“I recognize that there have been challenges with all the changes taking place in the past couple of years, including the increase of food prices,” she continued. “These changes have been easier for some than others. Those that believe they will never succeed are likely setting themselves up for failure. Let’s concentrate on all of the positive things going on and continue to work together to share the best practices like we’ve always done. Be the cheerleader for each other.”

Thornton, along with other members of the USDA, stressed how important operator feedback was to the organization.

In a session on the new Smart Snacks guidelines, USDA representatives Julie Brewer and Eileen Ferruggiaro, said the final final rule regarding Smart Snacks (currently there is only an interim final rule in place) will not be released this school year. Brewer and Ferruggiaro said that was to enable directors to share their experiences with the new regs with the USDA so that modifications or flexibility could be addressed in the final final rule. “We are listening to what you have to say and the experiences you have implementing this,” the women said.

They also noted that the rule was not intended to make school foodservice directors food police. Under the new guidelines, all foods sold in schools during school hours are regulated, even if they are not offered by school foodservice departments. “Meeting Smart Snacks rules is the responsibility of everyone in the school building, not just foodservice,” they said, adding that for the time being, foodservice departments will not be monetarily fined for violations of the rules from non-foodservice groups.

A few other highlights from the conference included:

  • About half of the states have said there will be no exemptions for fundraisers from rules regarding Smart Snacks.
  • The local wellness policy rule should be published early next year.
  • One Texas foodservice department teamed up with its DECA club to develop a school lunch marketing plan at its high school.
  • It costs about $9,000 for a tractor-trailer of produce to go from California to the East Coast.
  • Make sure you cut into some of your produce when it comes in. That way you can inspect for internal damage.
  • When it came to items directors were looking for on the show floor, hot, prepackaged protein breakfast entrées and à la carte items that met Smart Snack guidelines were the two hot topics.

Several SNA members were also honored at the show, including:

  • Lauren Tend, from Huntington Beach Union High School, in California, with the 2014 Outstanding Director of the Year Award;
  • Gail Gramling, of Torrance Unified School District, in California, with the National Louise Sublette Award of Excellence in School Nutrition;
  • Brenda Thompson, of Raymond Cree Middle School, in Palm Springs, Calif., with the National Heart of the Program Award; and
  • Stacy Sagowitz, R.D., president of School Nutrition Services, in California, with the 2014 National Industry Member of the Year. 

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
wheaton emerson int salad bar

Restaurant design is all about catching a customer’s eye —and it’s sometimes particularly beneficial to be far-sighted. As Airbnb has proven with its San Francisco headquarters, where cafe spaces are inspired by cities like Cairo and Mumbai, elaborate design schemes that evoke far-flung geographic regions can be done to great effect. But operators are finding simpler ways to achieve that feel.

That’s been the experience of Kutztown University Dining Services in Pennsylvania. Kent Dahlquist, director of housing and dining services, says that when the university decided several years...

Managing Your Business
overtime payroll timesheet

Just eight days before Dec. 1, when operators would have to comply with the U.S. Department of Labor’s new overtime rules, a federal judge in Texas slapped an injunction on the regulation. The move indefinitely halted the rules that would have doubled the overtime threshold to $47,476, affecting nearly 4.2 million workers, according to the DOL. For some operators, the move was too little, too late. Now, they have to answer to employees who had been briefed on promised wage increases.

Kansas Memorial Union at the University of Kansas in Lawrence made changes ahead of the deadline...

Ideas and Innovation
ucmc model

With a budget and timeline in place, and the support of the university behind them, the foodservice team at the University of Chicago Medical Center was ready to get rolling with the renovation of one of its patient services kitchens. The facility, which services the hospital’s Center for Care and Discovery and Comer Children’s Hospital, was tripling in size to serve two additional patient floors, to the tune of $9 million. But that didn’t mean immediately jumping in with steel and screws.

“First, we cut out scaled pieces of paper and moved things around,” says Elizabeth Lockwood,...

Managing Your Business
pizza toppings

When the FoodService Director editors first started tossing around the idea of an “influencers” issue, our minds immediately turned to, well, foodservice directors. After all, so much of the learning in this industry is a peer-to-peer experience, and it’s your influence that inspires the content in every single issue of this magazine.

Then we imagined the massive infighting that would occur if we tried to whittle ourselves down to a list of just 20 influential operators and thought better of it. There’s already enough arguing for us to do about which pizza toppings are best (...

FSD Resources