While I applaud you for your concern about obesity and I love that you have brought attention to America's schools and what is being done in the kitchens I worry about how you have brought it about.
The blame for obesity has long been put on the backs of those of us who work in the kitchens, those of us who try our best with the budget we are given to create healthy meals that children will eat.
This has been coming for some time “we”, have been watching and writing our government, when needed, for the betterment of the schools, doing our very best to keep serving food children will eat. Trying to change laws that were being considered with no one setting a foot in a school cafeteria or talking to anyone involved in every day planning. Laws that while they did listen to us they did not listen well enough. They have done what they wanted,and we now must make it work...yet again.
We listened when they changed the laws and added offer vs serve as an option meaning we could "offer" 5 different components for lunch and your child need only take three, thus stopping us from throwing away food that some like but not all, and not needing to put it on the plate if we knew they won't take it saved us money but also allowed us to offer more choices since we could make an amount of each product we were pretty sure your child would like.
But now in our governments wisdom they have declared we now must offer at least one cup of veggies a day and place at least ½ cup per day of a fruit or vegetable on a child’s plate, does not matter if it will be eaten, they assume that if we place it there long enough the student will give, I guess, and finally starving from the little bit of other food we will now be ALLOWED to serve will, in desperation, eat it. Leaving us to find foods all children will maybe eat or try or like so our budget stays in line and a child doesn't go hungry.
These are the minimums for fruit and vegetables allowable for each student by groups; the total is the amount over a week’s time we must offer but we may offer as much as we want within our weekly calorie limits.
2 ½ (1/2 a day) 2 ½ (½ a day) 5 (1 a day)
3 ¾(¾ a day) 3 ¾(3/4 a day) 5(1 a day)
Of each of the following per week
Dark Green ½ ½ ½
Red/Orange ¾ ¾ 1 ¼
Beans/Peas ½ 1/2 1/2
Starchy ½ ½ ½
Other ½ 1/2 3/4
Additional veggie to reach total amount needed served is 1 cup more a week except 9-12 which needs 1 ½ cups more Here is a link to what vegetables we may use where and how much each it takes to make a serving
The rest of the requirements per week we are allowed to serve, now with a max and a min… In ounces
K-5 6-8 9-12
Grains 8-9 (1) 8-10 (1) 10-12 (2)Meats/MA 8-10 (1) 9-10(1) 10-12 (2)Milk 1 cup 1 cup 1 cup
Milk must be 1 % or less for white and non fat for flavored.
This coming school year ½ of our grains must be whole and next school year 2013/2014 ALL our grains offered must be whole. Most of us are already at ½ served but all grains served whole will become more expensive and then we need to make them appealing to children always a daunting task when a good portion of them never receive whole grains at home.
Food-Based Menu Planning Calorie Range— Lunch Meal Grades K-5 Grades 6-8 Grades 9-12
550-650 600-700 750-850
The average daily amount for a 5-day school week must fall within the minimum and maximum levels. A school could offer age grade groups K-8 a single menu that falls within a range of 600-650 average calories per week to meet the requirement for each grade group.
This is what they have come up with for our new sodium regulations although they may change them yet again after they study this more. Like they have changed our fat requirement, after we finally got our menus down to below 30g of fat a week they now don't care about total fat only saturated and trans fat with trans fat we are not allowed to serve at all.
Target 1:July 1, 2014(SY 2014–2015) Lunch Sodium (mg) Grades K-5 Grades 6-8 Grades 9-12 ≤ 1,230 mg/sodium ≤ 1,360 mg/sodium ≤ 1,420 mg/sodium
Target 2:July 1, 2017(SY 2017–2018) Lunch Sodium (mg) Grades K-5 Grades 6-8 Grades 9-12 ≤ 935 mg/sodium ≤ 1,035 mg/sodium ≤ 1,080 mg/sodium
Target 3:July 1, 2017(SY 2017–2018) Lunch Sodium (mg) Grades K-5 Grades 6-8 Grades 9-12 ≤ 640 mg/sodium ≤ 710 mg/sodium ≤ 740 mg/sodium.
We will no longer be able to offer desserts as 2 or less grain servings a day will make it almost impossible. No more filling whole wheat sandwiches as again 3 breads will never fit, no chicken patties w/ bun, no whole grain pizza. Not unless we serve thin breads and pizza which, with time we will do, because that is our job, but with 3 months warning before school starts we are all scrambling, digging for classes, webinars and any help we can find.
The industry is working hard to help, for them as well but we need smaller bread, we need help as really even scratch cooking will be hard to handle. One half cup of rice is a serving if you serve a small taco with it that gives them 2 grain servings which for a 6-8th grader will leave them hungry and I really don’t see them going to our dark green all you can eat salad bar to fill up the rest of the way.
All this for $2.10 K-5 and $2.35 for 6-8
You push for school gardens and I agree a wonderful idea but who will run it? Who will find the time, the money to keep it going? When will children be allowed out of the classroom to work in it?
While speaking about money these new regulations come with a 6 cent a child increase in reimbursement, 6 cents per child, but only if we fill out reams of paperwork that hardly makes it worth trying for.
You have this grand wonderful plan that most school food service workers agree with but you give us no time or money to make it happen in the right way.
“We” have not created America’s obesity epidemic, two parents working, PE leaving the schools, being afraid to let your children go outside to play, and those parents who keep their children so busy trying to relive their own youth through them, that is what has started
Now “we” have been called on to help fix it all the while living with the blame and the remarks about us and our unknown food of the day.
We are scrambling to meet the new requirements, we WILL do this but it will not fix what is broken, it is only a bandage that will lose us customers and leave hungry children without food.
We will make sure they eat, working around what we can, to insure that no child goes hungry because that is what we do.
I wish you had come into a kitchen to see the wonderful work we are all ready doing, to see how dedicated we all are to the children. We were already changing our menu's in increments that a child would tolerate and now we are being forced to serve food that is not filling, to count every item, every day that is served, serving it whether it makes sense too a meal or not.
Gone are choices as to figure out the exact counting that is now required puts us back in a world where choices will be too much work and that to me is a step back.
Sometimes I wonder if this isn't all being run by big food management companies so they can come in and take over all the schools kitchens, big money to be made running all the kitchens, with minimum wage earners and few hours, they would make a killing.
Or then again maybe I'm just paranoid next time it may be my job.
I appreciate your time and your wonderful thoughts on childhood obesity but I respectfully request you come into the trenches with us and see for yourself how hard these new requirements are going to be and how detrimental they are to our children's health, especially those who go without food at home.