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!