Reflections from LAC: Operators express frustration to USDA officials

Reactions to new meal pattern contain postives and negatives.

By Becky Schilling, Editor

  • One attendee said it wasn’t as easy as had been suggested by USDA officials to train cashiers as to what constitutes an acceptable portion size of a fruit or veggie on a self-service salad bar.
  • Another director asked for clarification on the requirements that calls for an average taken during the course of a five-day week. Some school weeks are not five days, so she asked how she should proceed. USDA officials told the director that guidance on that was forthcoming, but that for a general principle, if a week is four days instead of five, that one-fifth of the week’s total should be eliminated from the total to get the amount for the shortened week.

The second general session seemed to take another shift. Operators, having had a chance to voice their frustrations to USDA officials, changed to praising the agency for all its efforts. Tony Geraci, executive director of foodservice, Memphis City Schools in Tennessee, said that the USDA has done more in the past four years to help the school nutrition industry than in the last 20 years. This sentiment was echoed by several other commenters.

Other tidbits from LAC:

  • The HealthierUS School Challenge has been changed. Breakfast is now a part of the challenge. After July 1, there will be new criteria for the program. Districts will have 22 different options, ranging from nutrition education, physical activity, and school and community involvement in wellness efforts, that they must select from and complete to become certified under the program. In addition, average daily participation will now be calculated based on attendance and not enrollment.
  • The professional standards as mandated under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is a major goal to be completed by this year, according to Thornton.
  • Thornton said the 6-cent rule is currently in the Office of Management and Budget, so she was unable to comment on that. She hopes that rule will be addressed in greater detail soon.
  • SNA’s 2012 Legislative Issue Paper calls for Congress to act on the following points: the increase in the amount of unpaid meal balances; the cost of collecting and verifying income data that is then used by other agencies for non-meal purposes; adding 10 cents per breakfast in USDA commodities; giving the USDA secretary the ability to develop a standard contract that districts may use between local school districts and foodservice management companies; and require the USDA secretary to determine which indirect costs incurred by a school district that can be charged to school foodservice accounts.

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