Era of healthier school meals begins

The opening of schools means new headaches for foodservice departments.

With Labor Day fast approaching, school districts are either already in session or preparing to open their doors for the new year. That means the opening of books, the sharpening of pencils, and the oodles of paperwork that comes with the start of a new academic season.

And that’s just for the foodservice department.

The passage of new federal regulations requiring school districts to serve healthier meals didn’t come simply with a mandate to achieve the aforementioned goal. It also came with reams of forms, not only to spell out exactly how the regulations must be met but for directors to prove that they are actually meeting the requirements.

In an editorial published Aug. 26, The Oregonian newspaper in Portland says “the standards come with rules so detailed and prescriptive, they threaten to kill the kinds of nutritional programs they are supposed to foster.” The editorial talks about Abernethy Elementary School, part of Portland Public Schools, possibly having to shut down its Kitchen Garden program, from which the foodservice staff gather much of the produce they use in preparing students’ meals.

We’ve heard this song before. Every time legislators create new regulations, such as validating the applications of parents applying for free or reduced-price meals for their kids, they require so much paperwork that districts become too frustrated to want to continue the program. We appreciate the need for a checks and balance system for any federally funded program, but does the paperwork have to be so onerous as to dissuade compliance—perhaps even cause districts to abandon their foodservice programs? That’s the question the federal government must find an answer to.

Our questions to school foodservice directors are these: What is the most onerous part of the new healthy meals regulations? What changes are you having to make to your programs as a result of the new regs? And, if you have any advice for your fellow foodservice professionals as you all deal with this new era, what is it?

Share your answers with us, either as comments to this blog, in an email to me at pking@cspnet,.com, or on our Facebook page, and we’ll spread the word.

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
spilled coffee beans glasses

Following an initial test at the end of May, Starbucks announced that more than 500 of its stores will be pouring nitro coffee by the end of summer. Capitalizing on the cold-brew coffee trend—which reached $7.9 million in sales in 2015 on 115% growth from the previous year, according to researcher Mintel—select U.S. cafes will give up the counter space to serve the creamy, nitrogen-infused java made from the cold-brew base. But how did nitro become the hottest new thing in coffee?

Bringing the bar to coffeehouses

It was the chrome double tap, similar to a bar’s beer tap, and the...

Ideas and Innovation
star wars storm trooper

My favorite event—because I’m kind of dorky—is our “May the fourth be with you” (aka “Star Wars”) day on May 4. The whole dining team dresses up, and we offer things like Chewbaklava, Boba Fettuccine and BB-8 Buckeyes. We had a guest cry because they got to take a picture with Chewy.

Menu Development
recipe revamp chicken soup

As a continuous care retirement community, The Garlands of Barrington in Illinois provides daily foodservice to 270 independent living and skilled nursing care residents, with the majority of sodium restrictions coming from the latter, says Executive Chef Nicola Torres. Instead of cooking two versions of chicken noodle soup—a favorite offered at least twice a week—he reworked his recipe into a flavorful lower-sodium version that appeals to all. “Everybody eats soup, so I created a homemade stock that uses no salt at all, ramping up the flavor with fresh herbs and plenty of vegetables,...

Ideas and Innovation
tray number

We created lucky tray days to help create an experience surrounding our brand. The trays are numbered; we pick a number and the winner receives a free lunch. We’ve enlisted the help of one of our coaches, who calls out the random lucky winner, and it drums up a lot of excitement.

FSD Resources