Pillar 1 ~ How to Succeed

Pillar 1 ~ How to Succeed

How to Succeed and Create Positive, Sustainable, Change in Today’s Child Nutrition Environment

I’m here to create some dissatisfaction…

It’s not a secret that, in recent years, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the changes in child nutrition regulations due to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Kids are frustrated, parents are frustrated, and many program directors have been struggling to adapt their operations to meet the new regulations and keep the kids lining up.

I don’t think too many people would argue that the changes required by the HHFKA were needed. Public opinion shows that most Americans support stronger nutrition standards for school meals and all foods sold in schools. Rightfully so, they are concerned about childhood obesity, diabetes and other avoidable food-related diseases and believe that the availability of healthy food in schools is key to student learning and their overall well-being.

A recent survey of child nutrition directors by The Pew Charitable Trusts group reveals that success is possible in the HHFKA current environment. The report shows that by innovating in a few key areas, you can create a successful, local child nutrition program. You can do it all within budget, serve a great variety of tasty, nutritious foods, and improve the perception of your program.

Aren’t you sick and tired of hearing all the negative press about school food? The words “school food” trigger the same involuntary, negative reactions from people as does the word “dentist” (no offense to dentists intended). An example of how people are “eating up” the negative media about school meals is found in a Buzzfeed video I came across recently. You don’t even need to watch the video to get my point. This video has received over 14 million views at the time of this writing! Negative media about school food service, permeates the internets and people love clicking this stuff! To exaggerate my point, do a google search for positive media about school meals (try “farm to school”) and see the disparity in numbers of views. Certainly, there are many examples of school food service being done well but as a general rule, our industry’s approval ratings are low. Frozen convenience foods are the norm. Whole, fresh foods are scarce and major improvements are needed.

In the child nutrition program I ran for over 17 years, I found these four things to be foundational to our success:

1. Increase the use of whole foods and decrease the use of processed foods

2. Cook from scratch whenever possible

3. Start a Farm to School program and procure locally as much as possible

4. Marketing: Shout your effort from the rooftops!

Perhaps you too are dissatisfied with the current state of school food service but just don’t know what to do about it or where to begin. Innovative directors are making positive changes with success! My hope is that we can join forces, leverage our corporate dissatisfaction and create a community of people who will take action to make real, sustainable change in the child nutrition arena. We can support each other in the effort and the place to start is right there in your program in your own community.

I will be expanding on each of these four key areas, and explain why they are critical to success in child nutrition programs. Emphasizing these four things will be better for kids, improve food quality, improve public perception of your program and increase participation.

Join forces! Start Anywhere! Take Action!

Let’s talk about it!

Pillar 3 ~ Whole Foods

Pillar 3 ~ Whole Foods

Whole Foods – Harness the Power of Dissatisfaction!

I am back to continue my quest to create a sense of dissatisfaction with the current state of child nutrition programs. In my previous article, I talked about the state of school food service and the four pillars, essential to creating a CN program that will appeal to kids, serve quality, nutritious food and be financially self-supporting. There are great examples of district’s making the extra effort to improve both the appeal and nutrition of school meals, so it can be done! The changes brought by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act has forced more fruits, veggies and whole grains onto the tray but unfortunately, in many cases, this has resulted in bland, less than satisfying meals. Getting more fresh fruits and veggies in front of kids is great, but continuing to serve them next to the same old processed crap (corn dogs, chicken nuggets, pizza, etc) that has been reformulated to include whole grains is not the answer! What is needed is a wholistic approach to the problem.

Just as the use of only one pillar in a construction project will not support the weight of an entire roof, neither will sustainable changes be made by focusing only on one of the four pillars of success in child nutrition. All four pillars work together to create and support a program that will improve quality and nutrition and get the kids to line up!

Whole foods must be emphasized in school meals. For the sake of quality and nutrition, we must move to a whole foods approach in our menus. REAL FOOD made from WHOLE FOOD ingredients that is skillfully cooked from scratch is the direction in which we need to move!

Is it as easy as that? Hell no! Did we get here overnight? Hell no, again! But it is the right way to go and it can be done! Can you do it alone? Maybe you can, but its a big job. Fortunately, there is a lot of potential energy to be found in corporate dissatisfaction! Harness it and use it for good! There are champions in your district, in your community and in your networks that you can join forces with.

Harness the power of dissatisfaction! Join forces! Start Anywhere! Take Action!

Pillar 2 ~ Scratch Cooking

Pillar 2 ~ Scratch Cooking

How to Create Sustainable, Positive Change in Child Nutrition Programs in These Days of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act

Perhaps you, too, have been feeling dissatisfied with the current state of child nutrition programming in the United States.

This is the third article in a series, highlighting each of the four foundational pillars that must be in place to grow a healthy, sustainable, high quality, child nutrition program. These pillars are Whole Foods, Scratch Cooking (which we will talk about today), Farm to School (local purchasing), and Marketing. Applying these four approaches will not only feed kids well and grow a vigorous program, but will also contribute to helping our industry pull out of the reputation nose dive that it has been in for years. It will also legitimatize the important work we do as food service directors. These are all good and desirable things!

Pillar #2 – Scratch Cooking:

As the commercial food industry continues working hard to make every kind of food product you can imagine easy and accessible for us to eat, we are losing the desire and ability to feed ourselves. “Slow food” is having a renaissance of late, so there is no doubt that we must get back in the kitchen with some whole foods and start cooking for ourselves again. More importantly, we have to cook real food for our children in our nation’s school meals programs.

I recognize that this is a bigger task for some schools than for others. Many schools moved so far away from the scratch cook model that they don’t have kitchens equipped to do any type of cooking or even reheating. If this is your situation, you certainly have more obstacles to overcome, but this is work important enough to begin advocating for updating your district’s facilities to accommodate the preparation of real food in the future. So take action!

If your schools already have the ability to do some scratch cooking, then it is so important to begin moving in that direction. Set a course and get started!

If you are already doing some scratch cooking, then plan to expand your scratch offerings. Plan it into your continuous improvement plans. Seek assistance from someone who is “a little further down the road” than you. The stakes are too high to let our egos get in the way, so ask for help!

If you have been part of the “real food in schools” movement for a while now, and are getting good at it, you should be offering others a hand. Offer to give neighboring district directors, and their key players, a tour of your operation. Get them excited about serving real food in their schools, too! Answer their questions and share your resources and while you’re doing all that, shout your efforts and accomplishments from the roof-tops (marketing)! The more we band together, the more sustainable the change will be and the faster change will occur. There is no reason any of us should have to rebuild the wheel. There are plenty of resources and many districts who are already doing this fantastic work that you can “go to school” on. Most of these directors are more than happy to share their experiences with you.

It’s time to begin the transition from the fast food/processed food model to the REAL FOOD model. We cannot afford to wait for more funding or a better situation. This work is too important to not take immediate action. The sooner you start the sooner you will see progress. The health of this and future generations depends on our commitment to this vision!

If you don’t know where to start, give me a call and we can talk about some ideas that will get you rolling in the right direction. I love to problem-solve and brainstorm and it will cost you nothing but a few moments of your time to have the conversation!

Kent Getzin