Keep those cards and letters coming

Comments from readers suggest controversy over new school meal regulations may just be heating up.

I just finished the research and interviews for our November cover story, entitled "Schools’ New Balancing Act," at about the time our October issue hit readers’ desks. One of the elements of that issue was my Opinion piece called "Building Rome in a Day." The catalyst for the column—as well as our upcoming feature—was a proposal by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) to rescind the calorie-limit portion of the new U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations that are currently causing school foodservice directors so much agita.

Well, letters already have begun reaching my desk from school foodservice directors applauding my stand and adding their own thoughts to what I already had been hearing from their colleagues.

“I have never seen so many comments from the public and school officials in our state on one subject,” wrote one director from South Dakota. “Putting [a] maximum on calories, protein and breads has really taken away from the schools to decide what is the best way to feed their kids.”

And she is not the only person to wonder aloud why the regulations are so specific and rigid.

Another director, who was once the director of a childhood obesity program and whose specialty is diabetes education, commented that the drafters of the regulations “can't possibly know or understand the unintended consequences.”

“This might be characterized as prescribing therapeutic diets for children, most of whom (85%) are not obese and do not have any medical conditions requiring dietary intervention,” the director suggested. “To my knowledge, there are no scientific studies to support specific calorie and sodium requirements for healthy children. I am, and continue to be an advocate for healthy eating and exercise. I have practiced that lifestyle both personally and professionally. I also know that "one size" does not "fit all" and never will.

 “A meal plan as specific as these that we are being required to serve can not possibly be equally adequate and/or satisfying for both our student athletes who work out two to four hours each day as well as our students who spend more time with books and less physically active pursuits. Public school food service did not cause the childhood obesity epidemic and public school food service will not cure it.”

I can only imagine what correspondence will be generated by the November cover story. But this is a subject that will continue to create controversy as the months wear on. In print and online, we will keep reporting on developments as they occur.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
hydroponics

We put our hydroponic gardens in a spot where students can watch them grow, but at the same time it’s safe from being tampered with. At one of our elementary schools, the gardens are in the kitchen, but there’s a window where students can look in as they walk down the hallway. Some even stop to count how many cucumbers they see.

Ideas and Innovation
food snap

We started a 50-member vegan team in response to students expressing the need for more vegan options. Between our monthly meetings, students are asked to take photos of foods they eat in and out of the dining halls to give us a true picture of the kinds of things they like and the kinds of foods that cause disappointment. This exercise has sparked a lot of conversation and given us more insight into what we could do better.

Ideas and Innovation
hybrid worker

Some of our employees can work four 10-hour days. It’s really helped with balance. We’ve also created a lot of hybrid positions, such as a personal services assistant and foodservice worker role. It allows workers to pick up more shifts and cover both positions.

Ideas and Innovation
cheeseburger

We set up an interactive collaboration with our dietetics department where students worked with our culinary team to test how recipes are imagined and produced. One of the recipes they came up with was a barbecue tempeh sandwich, which they believed was a great option for vegan students across campus. We added the sandwich to our On the Go program and then expanded it to our vegan station on campus due to its success.

FSD Resources