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

Industry News & Opinion

A new law in Washington will expand Breakfast After the Bell programs throughout the state, the Daily Fly reports.

Signed into law on Wednesday by Gov. Jay Inslee, HB 1508 requires that schools in which at least 70% of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals offer Breakfast After the Bell by the time the 2019-2020 school year begins.

The food offered at breakfast must meet federal nutrition standards and can’t be made up of more than 25% added sugar. Schools must also give preference to food that is fresh and grown in the state.

The breakfast period can...

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Southern California in Los Angeles will begin offering fresh kosher meals three times a week at its USC Village Dining Hall, the Daily Trojan reports.

The meals will be delivered to the dining hall every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening by a local kosher butcher beginning March 20. The butcher will also deliver sandwiches, salads and other kosher items to a marketplace on campus.

Around 15 Orthodox students who are on meal plans will be able to enjoy the meals, according to the Daily Trojan. Students can receive their meals at the cashier’s desk in...

Sponsored Content
fish tacos

From High Liner Foods.

Younger consumers are driving an increased focus on sustainability, and more consumers overall are demanding a wider variety of seafood on menus. With shifting interest in seafood, operators need to be familiar with the seafood consumer—who they are, what they’re looking for and when they eat it—to more effectively boost interest in seafood dishes.

Understand consumer habits

Technomic’s 2017 Center of the Plate: Seafood & Vegetarian report finds that 65% of consumers eat seafood at least occasionally (once every 90 days or more), either as an...

Industry News & Opinion

The Missouri House of Representatives has initially approved a bill that would enable students with dietary issues to forgo mandatory meal plans at public colleges and universities, U.S. News reports.

Approved Tuesday, the bill would grant students with medical documentation of food sensitivities, food allergies or medical dietary issues the right to opt out of meal plans.

Supporters of the bill say it will allow students to not have to pay for food they can’t safely eat, while opponents say that the bill will negatively impact schools financially. According to legislative...

FSD Resources