USDA's Audrey Lowe speaks out on Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act

Cites flexibility as being key to act's implementation.

May 16—First lady Michelle Obama visited the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) earlier this month and praised the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, the 2010 law designed to make school lunches more nutritious. Audrey Rowe, the administrator of the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), oversees federal nutrition assistance and education programs, including the 2010 law. Rowe spoke with Tom Fox, a guest writer for The Washington Post's On Leadership and vice president for leadership and innovation at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. He also heads the Partnership’s Center for Government Leadership.

What are you doing to ensure implementation of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act?

Once the legislation was passed, we proposed rules for the school meals program and received over 132,000 comments from school food service directors, health professionals, parents and students. When we issued the final rules, they needed to be carried out and it was important to be out there talking to the schools, traveling around the country and listening to the challenges people were facing. We quickly realized that there was one provision involving our meat protein rules that presented the greatest challenge, so we allowed some flexibility. Having worked at the state level, I understand what it means when a federal policy comes down and you’re trying to implement it and it’s not working for you. It can be frustrating not being able to get some flexibility.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
lettuce eat dining

Forced to battle crumbling infrastructure and a constant churn of trends, sometimes the best way to save a foodservice operation is to change it entirely. As Steve Mangan, director of dining at the University of Michigan, puts it, “At some point when your building starts to fail, the cost of maintenance stands out.” But for operators with limited budgets, the challenge is discerning the right time to do so—and how far to take it.

At Jefferson High School, change came because little worked anymore. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, school’s cafeteria hadn’t been updated since 1957; students...

Managing Your Business
farmer produce

The seeds of farm-to-table 2.0 have officially blown into noncommercial foodservice. Since the movement has caught the attention of the segment during the past decade, operators have broadened agricultural collaborations outside of just supply. As a result, a new strain of the movement has been created that treats farms as allies in events, training and innovative growing systems.

The 500-bed Overlook Medical Center in Summit, N.J., didn’t start out sourcing produce from local farms; instead, it administered its own growing programs, including an on-site garden and honeybee apiary...

Ideas and Innovation
fsd screenshot web

A full year has passed since we redesigned FoodService Director magazine, taking the publication from its longtime tabloid dimensions to a more convenient size and more creative design, and recasting the content to provide actionable, peer-to-peer insights and ideas for FSDs.

Now we are thrilled to announce that we’ve extended the makeover to our website as well. The new FoodServiceDirector.com has been redesigned to be more engaging and even easier to use. We’ve made it faster to find information, from recipes to HR best practices, that will help you run your facility better....

Managing Your Business
wage feud business

As plans to increase the minimum wage surge ahead in states such as New York and California, operators eventually will feel the reverberations shake up labor costs for more than just hourly workers. As associate wages gain on manager salaries, operators will have to answer a call for reciprocal increases. FSD spoke with operators who advised going gently into the brave new world of heightened labor costs, investing in talent and making cuts elsewhere; however, they did offer three perfectly proactive tactics to make the process as seamless as possible.

1. Keep talking

Even though...

FSD Resources