Reflections from LAC: Operators express frustration to USDA officials

Reactions to new meal pattern contain postives and negatives.

Yesterday I was in Washington, D.C., at the School Nutrition Association’s LAC conference. I’ve been talking to operators about the new meal regs, both proposed and final, for more than a year now. Public opinion seems to flow in cycles. When the proposed regulations came out, general opinion seemed to be negative. It could have been that directors felt the burden of the rules would be too great or costly. Some expressed frustration over what they thought was a lack of input in the rules. When the final rules came out in January, there seemed to be a shift. Most of the directors I talked to said they were already well on their way to meeting all the requirements. Most seemed optimistic. Yes, there was still some frustration, but it seemed like having that time to digest the proposed rules made directors a little less hostile to the requirements.

So when I came into LAC’s general session this morning I thought the upbeat mindset would be there; but I was wrong. After an overview of the new meal requirements, the session was opened up to questions and comments. Most of the people who spoke during the comments period seemed frustrated, and they directed that frustration onto the USDA officials present, Janey Thornton, USDA under secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, and Cindy Long, director, Child Nutrition Division, USDA.

Here are some of the comments:

  • Several directors from California expressed concern over food-based menu planning. The directors would like for the state’s SHAPE nutrient analysis to be allowed.
  • Smoothies: If one cup of fruit is blended with one cup of low-fat yogurt, that blended item can not be used as components that meet the new meal pattern regulations. So the fruit in that smoothie can not be counted as the fruit component. This is because the fruit is no longer recognizable as a fruit when it is blended. Long said the goal behind the new meal pattern regs is to teach students what real foods look like.
  • One director asked why there wasn’t an exception for naturally occurring sodium like there is for naturally occurring trans fat. The USDA’s response to that was that the sodium ranges included in the regs takes into account all sodium served, even naturally occurring sodium.
  • Whole grains: If an item has water as the first listed ingredient and whole grain as second, that item is counted as a whole grain-rich item.

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
business man smash computer

Foodservice directors spend a lot of time taking care of other people, whether it’s K-12 students who aren’t always eating enough at home, malnourished patients back for return visits or employees squabbling among themselves. That kind of pressure can weigh heavily—and come home from work. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America finds that 83% of men and 72% of women say stress at work carries over into their personal lives, and 50% call staff management their main culprit for workplace stress.

“Stress is very difficult in our world, and work-life balance is very much a...

Industry News & Opinion

Students at an Arkansas high school may have to take creative measures to get a meal, thanks to a school policy that prevents parents from dropping off lunches left at home.

The Catholic High School for Boys in Little Rock, Ark., last week posted a picture on Facebook of a sign that reads, “Stop. If you are dropping off your son’s forgotten lunch, books, homework, equipment, etc., please turn around and exit the building. Your son will learn to problem-solve in your absence.”

While social media opinions on the school’s rule were mixed, some commenters expressed concern that...

Industry News & Opinion

Novato Unified School District in Novato, Calif., has created a new vegetarian grab-and-go item as part of the district’s Meatless Monday initiative, marinij.com reports .

The Fiesta Rice and Bean Shaker, which is served in disposable cups, contains rice, corn, black beans, taco seasoning, corn tortilla chips and romaine lettuce topped with an optional salsa and ranch dressing. It’s also customizable, as students are able to select which ingredients they’d like to include.

The vegetarian shaker is made using produce from a nearby organic garden. Sofie Garcia, an employee in...

Industry News & Opinion

High school students in Dallastown Area School District in Dallastown, Pa., will soon see the addition of live prep stations in their cafeteria, as well as an area where they can access food at any time during the school day.

The district has partnered with Chartwells for the revamp, which will allow students to watch their food being prepared and also includes the addition of new menu items, says the York Dispatch .

Chartwells’ mid-Atlantic dietitian, Aliza Stern, believes these changes will be welcomed by students as they become increasingly interested in different types...

FSD Resources