I just finished the research and interviews for our November cover story, entitled "Schools’ New Balancing Act," at about the time our October issue hit readers’ desks. One of the elements of that issue was my Opinion piece called "Building Rome in a Day." The catalyst for the column—as well as our upcoming feature—was a proposal by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) to rescind the calorie-limit portion of the new U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations that are currently causing school foodservice directors so much agita.
Well, letters already have begun reaching my desk from school foodservice directors applauding my stand and adding their own thoughts to what I already had been hearing from their colleagues.
“I have never seen so many comments from the public and school officials in our state on one subject,” wrote one director from South Dakota. “Putting [a] maximum on calories, protein and breads has really taken away from the schools to decide what is the best way to feed their kids.”
And she is not the only person to wonder aloud why the regulations are so specific and rigid.
Another director, who was once the director of a childhood obesity program and whose specialty is diabetes education, commented that the drafters of the regulations “can't possibly know or understand the unintended consequences.”
“This might be characterized as prescribing therapeutic diets for children, most of whom (85%) are not obese and do not have any medical conditions requiring dietary intervention,” the director suggested. “To my knowledge, there are no scientific studies to support specific calorie and sodium requirements for healthy children. I am, and continue to be an advocate for healthy eating and exercise. I have practiced that lifestyle both personally and professionally. I also know that "one size" does not "fit all" and never will.
“A meal plan as specific as these that we are being required to serve can not possibly be equally adequate and/or satisfying for both our student athletes who work out two to four hours each day as well as our students who spend more time with books and less physically active pursuits. Public school food service did not cause the childhood obesity epidemic and public school food service will not cure it.”
I can only imagine what correspondence will be generated by the November cover story. But this is a subject that will continue to create controversy as the months wear on. In print and online, we will keep reporting on developments as they occur.