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'All We Are Asking Is to Slow Down a Bit'

We were inundated with letters responding to Eric Stoessel’s editorial last month asking school foodservice directors for their opinions on the increasingly public and political debate between the USDA and SNA on the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. He wondered what the people in the trenches really thought about the tougher requirements coming this year.

As a director of a small system of 3,100 students in eastern North Carolina, I am finding it very difficult to meet the standards that seem to change with the wind.  I do not have a problem with the intent of the law of wanting children to eat healthy items, but to force them to take food that they are just going to throw away isn’t teaching anyone anything. We allow our students to have all the vegetables they want. We offer fresh tossed salad, baby carrots and at least two other hot vegetables daily on our lunch lines. We work with local farmers to serve fresh Napa cabbage, squash, asparagus, lettuce, greens, peppers, strawberries, blueberries, watermelons and other items when in season. A variety of fresh fruit is also offered.

The whole grain issue will become a problem in the next school year because EVERYTHING that has grain must be at least 51 percent whole grain. The (suppliers) have not yet come up with breading on some items to have an acceptable taste for students. Some things are just not meant to be whole grain. The new snack rules that take effect this year also make it very difficult to serve al la carte items at the high schools and others as the calories are so limited—it is almost impossible to even serve anything on a bun because you will be over the limit.  

All we are asking is to slow down a bit and let everyone catch their breath before we further alienate our customers—the students—from eating lunch with us. Once a child starts packing lunch it is difficult to get them to stop.  

Jeff Swartz
Child Nutrition Administrator
Clinton City Schools
Clinton, NC

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