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Orange County Schools Director Lora Gilbert Dallas Independent School Director Dora Rivas West Virginia Department of Education Office of Child Nutrition Director Richard Goff Director of Letrsquos Move Sam Kass Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack join students to make a meal using the summer crop from the White House Kitchen Garden The directors are from districts that have been successful since the new standards were put in place by the Healthy HungerFree Kids Act
<p>Orange County Schools Director Lora Gilbert, Dallas Independent School Director Dora Rivas, West Virginia Department of Education Office of Child Nutrition Director Richard Goff, Director of Let&rsquo;s Move! Sam Kass, Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack join students to make a meal using the summer crop from the White House Kitchen Garden. The directors are from districts that have been successful since the new standards were put in place by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.</p>

'What We Take Issue With and What We Shouldn't'

We were inundated with letters responding to Eric Stoessel&rsquo;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.

Editor’s Note: This was written by a school foodservice director and CIA grad working in a rural district. The author wished to remain anonymous.

First, it needs to be clear that the USDA and others are stating facts that most schools are doing just fine, are still in the program, etc. Sure, that may be true. But the fact is that nationally we have lost participation of paid students. The only ones doing better are those that have gained in free or reduced meal status or those that have chosen to use the new community eligibility where every child eats free. This is not an option unless you have [a certain percentage] of your students qualified through direct certification matching, a system that identifies those who are already eligible for supplemental food assistance (often referred to as food stamps). The fact is that this change is creating two classes. Those who have the means to obtain what they want and those who have a subsidized meal provided for them.
Next, Mrs. Obama, the USDA and others are claiming we have already taken on the majority of changes. That may be true but the next stages are unrealistic and drastic. In school nutrition we have already switched to whole grain rich for 50% or more of the grains, we are mandating fruit or vegetables, we have cut out sodium, we have thrown out the fryers and long ago banned candy, soda and other items. This is fine, and any school that says it is not should be voted off the island. We are doing pretty good with what we currently have in place.

The issue here is what is coming up next. A strict rule for 100% whole grain rich food items, drastic sodium reduction targets that would not even permit a single whole kosher dill pickle to be served. Yes, that’s right, the final targets for K-5 are that prescriptive. What we have is a system that is out of step with a diverse culture of food here in the U.S. Let’s take a few examples with sodium.
K-5 Sodium Target = 640mg for all five components. The smart snacks in schools program calls for entrees this year to have no more than 480mg of sodium. [Editor’s note: The 640mg is the final target for K-5 by 2022-23, although the new standard for July 1 of this year is 1,230mg and 1,420mg for grades 9-12. For the 2017-18 school year, the K-5 standard becomes 935mg and 1,080mg for 9-12.] The examples below do not include fruit, which is a required part of NSLP but these examples are used to illustrate issues with sodium.
Meal issue #1: Fresh roasted USDA turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with carrots and milk
Milk nonfat flavored = 180mg
Two slices of whole grain bread = 240mg
1 Portion USDA supplied carrots – canned = 140mg 9 (yes this is the food that the USDA buys and gives to schools to use)
Subtotal = 710mg
Now let’s add in some meat for that sandwich (don’t even think about adding in cheese)
USDA supplied raw turkey we roast in house = 300mg (2 meat equivalents)
Total = 860mg of sodium and we don’t even have any fruit or a second portion of vegetables on there…
Meal issue #2: Chef Salad with Turkey, low sodium American cheese, lite ranch dressing and whole grain bread
Milk nonfat white = 125mg
Lettuce, carrot, cabbage mix with romaine and iceberg = 30mg
USDA supplied raw turkey we roast in house = 150mg (1 meat equivalent)
USDA supplied American 30% reduced sodium cheese = 280mg (1 meat alternate equivalent)
Two slices of whole grain bread = 240mg
Ken’s lite ranch dressing = 340mg for 2 tablespoons. Realistically most Americans will eat 3 to 4 tablespoons on a salad.
Total = 1,165mg of sodium for something most Americans and I would assume opinion makers in the media would assume to be healthy. As an aside, have you ever reviewed the “healthy” items at Subway for sodium content?
Meal issue #3: An American child favorite, toasted cheese with tomato soup
Milk nonfat white = 125mg
Two slices of whole grain bread = 240mg
USDA supplied American 30% reduced sodium cheese = 420mg (1.5 meat alternate equivalent)
1 Cup Campbell’s Tomato Soup = 960mg
Total= 1,745mg of sodium. I wonder if you told American families that the USDA is making it illegal to serve whole grain, reduced sodium toasted cheese with Campbell’s tomato soup how they would respond?

'The Pizza Issue'

(Continued from page 1)
Meal issue #4: Oh, the pizza issue. If I had to guess, I would say the majority of journalists love to point out school pizza as the primary source of American obesity. Well, it’s simply not true when a slice of school pizza is nutritionally superior in most ways to another American staple, the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Milk nonfat white = 125mg
Whole grain rich dough = 270mg
Tomato sauce = 180mg
USDA supplied part skim mozzarella cheese that we shred fresh in house = 306mg (1.75 meat alternate equivalent)
USDA supplied fresh baby carrots = 58mg
Lite ranch dressing for dipping carrots = 340 (2 tablespoons)
Total= 1,279mg of sodium.

It seems pizza is a favorite when it comes to targeting school lunch. But consider this: Is a whole grain pizza with part skim cheese that is fresh shredded in house and some tomato sauce nutritionally less superior than a PBJ, or even a salad coated in dressing and croutons? We are here to make kid friendly, tasty, appealing food. It’s wrong for the media and others to falsely accuse us of serving “greasy pizza. That is just sloppy journalism using an emotional headline to gain attention at the expense of hard working school lunch workers.
NO I DO NOT SUPPORT or EVEN EVER CONSIDER PIZZA A VEGETABLE—I’ve never met a small town food service director who does.
Meal issue #5 – Quesadilla using USDA provided menu items
Milk nonfat white = 125mg
USDA supplied whole grain tortilla = 380mg per 1.5 grain equivalent
USDA supplied chicken strips = 437mg per 1.5 meat equivalent
USDA supplied reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese = 101mg per ½ meat alternate equivalent
USDA supplied low sodium salsa = 70mg per ¼ cup
Total = 1113mg of sodium and this does not even include the recommended level of vegetables or fruit. It is made with all USDA food, yet is almost twice the allowance for a K-5 menu for sodium.
Smart Snacks A La Cart Entrée Item = 480mg sodium max
USDA supplied whole grain tortilla = 380mg per 1.5 grain equivalent
USDA supplied chicken strips = 437mg per 1.5 meat equivalent
USDA supplied reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese = 101mg per ½ meat alternate equivalent
USDA supplied low sodium salsa = 70mg per ¼ cup
Total = 988mg is more than double the maximum allowed by the new Smart Snacks in schools regulation starting July 1, 2014. We are not ready, USDA is not ready, suppliers are not ready.
Other Meal Issues
• 1 ea. Claussen Kosher Dill Pickle = ~ 620mg that’s only 20mg less than a full meal USDA requirement. How many families do you think feel it’s wrong to serve their child a pickle?
• Ketchup – 1 tablespoon = 160mg, how do you fit that in the menu?
• So you say why don’t you serve fresh veggies with ranch dressing so kids will eat them like in this study done by Cornell. How do you suggest that we offer a meager 2 tablespoons of low fat ranch dressing with 340mg of sodium to get our kids to eat vegetables? It simply won’t fit in the 640mg specifications.
• Smart snacks in schools permit 480mg of sodium for an entrée, including condiments.

Even if you get a burger with cheese and a bun to fit into this low number, there is no room for pickles, mustard or ketchup. Given a choice students will happily go to the $1 menu and get a greasy burger on white bread with pickles, ketchup and mustard. Who benefits from that?

Myths and Rhetoric

(Continued from page 2)

There are numerous other concerns and things we should discuss as well. Let’s debunk some other myths.
1. Schools just need more technical assistance
a. Claim: Schools need technical assistance, training, and kitchens to make this work.
b. Reply: Some schools might need that assistance, but as you can see from the above information these regulations are too restrictive and out of step with the diverse needs of our nation. We don’t need a few fun recipes from NFSMI, or the Culinary Institute of America, we need relief from unrealistic mandates.
2. It’s just “big food” or manufacturers
a. Claim: Big food and manufactures are trying to make us fat and obese.
b. Reply: Frankly, it’s not clear what their motivations are. What you can see by the above information that sodium is part of our food supply, it has been for thousands of years. Without it we would perish, it might be the first preservative we used as humans. To go into uncharted territory with such drastic targets that even USDA supplied food does not provide ingredients to help schools reach the targets is irresponsible. If anything, the USDA should be way out ahead, charting a path for us with revised commodity food. Instead we are lagging behind, focused on having a food fight.
3. The food manufacturers just have to take the sodium out!
a. Claim: Suppliers need time to adjust formulations.
b. Reply: Go to the supermarket right now and buy some turkey deli meat, not just any turkey, go and buy “just turkey” or some other version of turkey meat that is just turkey with no added salt or gelatinous material. Make a sandwich on whole grain bread without any mayonnaise or other condiments. Not even a pickle, then tell me if that is the world you want to live in.
c. Also, look back at what happened when the war on fat and saturated fat was occurring. Food manufactures took out fat, but replaced it with sugar, margarine, and sodium. The outcome was a grain/carb based diet sprinkled with trans-fat laden margarine. What will they replace the sodium with? I really am afraid to find out.
4. It’s all possible, look others are doing it!
a. Claim: There is a claim that others are doing it, those who are not are just complainers that want to roll back progress.
b. Reply: The truth is that some parts are working and some parts are not. The USDA has had to reverse its decision on things like sugar in fruit.

Also, the maximum amount of grain and meat allowed was not reasonable; they did finally listen to us in the field on that, but not before they put up a huge fight and soured many students on school lunch. These are real kids and families that won’t come back. When you lose a customer in a restaurant you lose many more because of all the people they tell about their negative experience.

The fact is that no large number of schools have totally embraced this or proven it works. Even Ann Cooper in Colorado still serves pizza: it’s whole grain, lower in sodium, has real cheese, etc., but still we are ridiculed under false pretenses about serving greasy pizza!
5. We just need to give it time
a. Claim: By giving things more time it will be accepted.
b. Reply: Maybe that is true, let’s give it time by letting the current standards, the ones we have all certified to settle in. I would estimate we need to wait at least 10 years before changing this again. While it is recognized that the tiered introduction model exists in the current plan, it’s also recognized that the backlash from students is greater and the fallout is evident in the data. The USDA and Mrs. Obama need to give us a reprieve so we can remain focused as mutual team members on the fight for student and American health. The way this is being approached by the administration currently is doing a disservice to those we are contracted to serve.
6. The science is settled
a. Claim: The results are in and only food manufactures are questioning them.
b. Reply: The science is not settled. The Institute of Medicine is not finding true causational relationships in their research to justify these drastic cuts in sodium for the general population. It’s simply not settled, and we don’t know the unintended consequences of taking such action.
c. Reply 2: Groups like the Center for Science and the Public Interest or the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine have fancy names that sound impressive. However, they are truly a lobbyist organization. They do some good but they are also misrepresenting the facts. Often it is found that these groups true motive is a push toward a plant-based diet substituting meat with soy products and other protein alternatives. These groups are not research organizations as their name implies, it might even be considered misleading by some what they are doing to the American public.
7. What is the worst that can happen…it’s for the kids
a. Claim: Even if you think these are extreme targets, why not try it out.
b. Reply: What about the unintended consequences:
• Remember the push to eradicate fat in our diets in the 80s and 90s? That resulted in a food pyramid focused on grains. We are seeing the results of that methodology now with increased grain consumption leading us to eat way to many carbohydrates, sugar and sodium. If this was not the push from nutrition experts back then, what would things look like today?
• What about the students who have the means to eat elsewhere? We have data showing this is happening already and there is no reason to assume this trend will reverse. What alternative will they seek. From experience I can tell you those with the means are increasingly getting takeout food or bringing in less healthy options from other sources.
• What about the school nutrition programs that are having their budgets gutted because of a loss of participation. What about the workers, their families and the demise of good solid programs that are offering food items that are way better than the alternatives in the real world outside of school.
8. School meals need to be accountable for obesity
a. Claim: Schools are serving junk food making our kids obese.
b. Reply: School meals have changed and are accountable. Also, this claim is simply not supported with data. First if you consider the typical school only has 50% to 60% of the student population eating daily, that leaves a large subset of students getting alternate meals. But let’s say for argument sake, 100% of student eat lunch every day for 180 school days a year. If you take 365 days x 3 meals per day that is 1,095 meal opportunities not including snacking. Simple math shows you that a student eating 100% of their lunch meals with schools only receive a maximum of 16% of total annual meals from schools. The data simply does not support the narrative being promulgated with negative rhetoric.
• Reference the Nutrition Journal and research on “energy intakes of U.S. children and adults by food purchase location and by specific food source” to see where adults and children are getting their food.


(Continued from page 3)

Activists, media and policy makers need to stop with the negative rhetoric about school meals. They need to come down from their office and see what work we are doing in the field. They need to evaluate this work based on the current regulations and look at the future regulations that SNA is fighting against. If they do, they will see that we are light years away from where we were just five or 10 years ago. We need to let this stage of changes settle in and work their way into the market. Efforts need to be made to compile thoughtful information from people working in the field. All too often the little people closest to the program are shouted out by policy makers and watchdog groups pushing a narrative that is not 100% accurate. Lastly, all this regulation is taking all the fun out of food. Many love to say “bring chefs to schools” and let’s reinvent school food. Ok, that is fine, but in the process let’s make it reasonable and easy for folks who are serving our nation’s children to go home at the end of school feeling like they made a difference, not destroying the country.
No one who I am aware of in this line of work is recommending that we repeal the mandate for 50% of our grains to be whole grain rich. I don’t think they are arguing about the first level sodium targets. What we are doing is standing up to show we are knowledgeable in the field and our feedback needs to be recognized and responded to with changes.

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