A unicorn in the room

A politician gets it right at the opening session of the School Nutrition Association’s conference.

I was pleasantly surprised at the opening session of the School Nutrition Association’s (SNA) annual conference yesterday. Every year the association allows a political representative to stage to give some opening comments and welcome attendees to the city. Most of the time, these comments are nothing but fluff and pleasantry. That wasn’t the case with this year’s representative: Congressman Jim McGovern, from Massachusetts.

You see, McGovern actually knew about school nutrition programs and could speak intelligently on them. Many times when you go to a conference, and not just for school nutrition, speakers do a quick Google search about the non-commercial foodservice industry and normally end up equating everything to restaurants. McGovern was the rare speaker—and politician at that—who knows about the ins and outs of child nutrition. 

McGovern is on the House Agricultural Committee and has been a big advocate for ending hunger in this country—just check out his homepage and one of the first things you’ll see is a campaign to end hunger. Clearly, it’s McGovern’s job to understand the issues that come forth for his committee. But he’s taken it further than a cursory knowledge and has become passionate about school nutrition.

McGovern knew the actual rules and regulations set forth in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. He knew about SNAP cuts. He knew about the challenges going on with asking for waivers and flexibility with some of the new regulations that will start this coming school year. And he wasn’t afraid to say the things he believed in, even when they went against his own party. (McGovern is a Democrat and criticized President Obama for promising to roll back SNAP cuts, which then didn’t happen.)

Here are a few tidbits from McGovern’s talk:

  • When it comes to school feeding, we need to put our money where our mandates are.
  • We need to integrate nutrition education into the classroom
  • We need universal breakfast at the bell
  • Summer feeding participation—currently around 18%—needs to be higher
  • Tell you success stories
  • I believe hunger is political. We have the food. We have money. We just have to figure out how to do it. When it comes to funding a war halfway around the world, we are willing to spend tons of money on it. When it comes to feeding kids halfway down the block we have empty pockets.
  • Be careful with asking for flexibility on the guidelines as some members in Congress will use that dismantle to good things the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act has brought. 

It was a real pleasure to hear a speaker who isn’t part of the industry be so well versed on the issues. The fact that the speaker was a politician made it that much more impressive.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Hutchinson Middle School in Hutchinson, Minn., invited students to help serve lunch in an effort to encourage their peers to try new, healthy recipes, Hutchinson Leader reports.

The students, who are part of the school’s Students in Action Club, created posters to advertise the new meal and helped serve it to students during lunch.

The school’s kitchen manager, Janet Schmidt, said that around 37 more students than normal got in line to try the meal. The school plans to have students from the club help serve lunch once every month.

Read the full story via Hutchinson...

Industry News & Opinion

In an effort to trim costs, the country’s largest senior living company laid off 100 staff members, including regional dining services directors, reports Senior Housing News .

Not all employees who were laid off will technically leave the company, Senior Housing News notes, as some will be reassigned to alternative positions. Brookdale recently posted third-quarter earnings that fell short of analysts’ expectations and that the company’s CEO called disappointing.

At the end of last year, the Brentwood, Tenn.-based company employed 53,000 workers on a full-time basis, and...

Industry News & Opinion

After receiving mixed feedback from parents, Randolph County School District in Asheboro, N.C., is inviting parents to tour the district’s kitchens and cafeterias to see how the food for school meals is made, Fox 8 reports.

School officials say that the tours, part of the district’s first Food Day for Parents, will give parents an inside look at the upkeep of the facilities, as well as enable them to sample some food and see how the district is upholding USDA guidelines.

Officials also hope that the tours will provide them with more guidance on what parents and students are...

Industry News & Opinion

After fielding complaints from parents and students, Sodexo is launching an initiative to improve dining services at Emerson College in Boston, the Berkeley Beacon reports.

The initiative will kick off this month with an event dubbed Fresh Start, marking the start of several moves aimed at improving service—including the hiring of a new executive chef, the addition of a second sous chef, and retraining current staff on food preparation and presentation.

Members of the Emerson community will also be able to share feedback through the introduction of monthly forums, as well...

FSD Resources