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'The Infrastructure Needs Drastic Changes'

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.

Very good article laying out the debate over school nutrition. I am ahead of the curve with a positive fund balance and having community support. As time passes the sodium level will be too difficult to meet. The solution is scratch cooking so you can control everything that is going into a recipe.  

The concern I have is the cost to make the switch back when kitchens aren't designed for scratch cooking and will there be student acceptance? Don't forget that most kitchens were built to serve lunch, not breakfast, lunch and supper. The infrastructure needs drastic changes; space, refrigeration, cooking and holding equipment.

The food insecure student eats what they are familiar with like any other child. Children mimic what they see at home. Food insecure students eat chicken nuggets and pizza because that is what they know. Introducing menu items that they have never seen or eaten will only worsen food insecurity. I switched from a chopped and formed chicken products to whole muscle products this last year in my district. All staff and parents were excited about the change. Cleaner label and real chicken.  

Students receive a choice of lunches daily in our district and the whole muscle chicken products were chosen less often. Why? Students didn't like them as well as they did the old products. Children have seen chicken as a nugget or strip for too many years, not something that has bones. The whole muscle chicken felt different in their mouths, contained less salt and wasn't what they were used to.

In discussions with other directors, it was decided that the HHFKA would work if we started with K-3 and moved the regulations forward each year, grade by grade, taking nine years for K-12, so children could be educated in what and where things they eat come from.

Remember, children mimic what they see at home and we need to educate and change everyone's eating habits to be successful in school.

Jim Degan
School Nutrition Manager
School District of Janesville
Janesville, WI

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