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

Ideas and Innovation
oversized portions

Here are the trends FSD's Chefs’ Council members wish would go away.

Kale Gluten-free Sriracha Chipotle Microgreens on everything Sous vide cooking Aversion to bread Healthy desserts Vegan diets Lies about local sourcing/organic food Fast food Cupcakes Pumpkin spice Fat-free or low-fat Meatless Mondays Bread cones Rigid child nutrition guidelines Bacon on everything Cajun Doughnuts with over-the-top toppings Oversized portions Fried foods Pinterest
Ideas and Innovation
Frose

Frose, sushi burgers and single-item restaurants are hot topics as of late, according to Forbes, which recently released a list of seven buzzwords in the foodservice world. Here’s what’s trending, in no particular order.

Blended burgers Frozecco and frose Goth food Hemp Single-item restaurants Sushi burger Upcycling
Industry News & Opinion
MeuDirections

One of my favorite cartoons shows a commander whose soldiers are in the midst of fighting a war with bows and arrows. Without turning around, he tells a man who has come up behind him, “I’m sorry, I’m too busy to talk to you.” The man was a rifle salesman.

In today’s time-pressed world, we are all too busy. So, it can be difficult to find time to reach out to others for ideas, solutions and best practices. But as that cartoon illustrates, it’s critical to being successful. The sharing of knowledge is a pillar of FoodService Director . Through our magazine and events, we have been...

Ideas and Innovation
chefs

We started inviting chefs and FSDs from other districts to come prepare lunch. Through featuring different chefs and chef-inspired meals, I’ve found the students have been looking forward to coming into the cafeteria. They are willing to try new things with crazy names, and to ask for their favorite outside items turned healthy.

FSD Resources