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BLOG: NIS Initiative: How Can Doing Good Feel So Bad?

Nutrition in the Schools Initiative-trying to understand why such harsh resistance.

As I have read many comments in blogs and newspapers over the last two years regarding the Nutrition in the School Initiative, I have been left, at many times, surprised.  How is it that doing something for the better can be criticized so much and continue to endure personal attacks?  I realize that people may disagree, but what is bothersome to me is that there is so much inaccurate information, that I wanted to take this time, as the leader of this initiative, to clarify.  As we have been called some extremely hurtful names, I will only say this about the people involved in this initiative:  They are very caring and dedicated individuals, including physicians, nurses and nutritionists,  who have taken the time away from their own families to try and address a national problem, that will affect the health and well-being of many kids across the country. Although, as the one who started this initiative,  I would like to take the credit for doing a unique thing; this is not unique, as it is being done all across the country, and even in some neighboring school districts.   Trying to do “our" part in addressing a national health crisis, How could that be a bad thing? To call these parents the names that they have been called, is not only inaccurate, but mean.

It is easy to make statements about things like additional waste and cost, but with no financial information to back them up, they again become inaccurate.  I have been following closely as I see the comments about how this initiative is costing the district so much money and there is so much wasted food because of it, but yet, have not seen anything to support such remarks.  Instead, it puts ideas in people’s heads that do not belong there.  For the record, to my knowledge, there have been no extra costs associated with legal or consultation fees.  Until we see financial information (future school board meeting), it is only fair to hold back from such conjectures.

Wellness Policy - This is a policy that had been in place long before the NIS initiative, but in fact was not truly being followed.  This is a state mandated policy that each school must have.  What has been done in the last two years, is to re-read the policy and make it more about Upper Dublin versus a boiler plate policy that would be used in any school.  The government was going to be enforcing new regulations starting this school year, and actually what was done in this district last year, was exactly what the government was enforcing for this year.  We were doing what Upper Dublin does best, staying a step ahead.  More vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and limiting sugars, sodium and saturated fats is what the new regulations are about. Do you know that beginning next school year (2013-2014) every grain item will have to have a whole grain as its first ingredient?  No more regular white pasta, not due to NIS, due to USDA and NSLP (National School Lunch Program).  For those that believe that kids will not eat the vegetables and fruits (which is an inaccurate remark) and therefore it is contributing to the waste, blame the government, not NIS.

One more story I would like to share.  As so many of the comments have said, “go away, we do not want your help”, I have to ask, who does not want our help?  Just as I was ready to stop the initiative in this district because of the continuing questioning resistance, I had a woman who emailed me and asked that I please continue with what we were doing, as she does not go to school board meetings, and does not like to speak up, but she has a child that gets a school lunch every day out of necessity, and wants him to have healthful food.  She thanked me for what we were trying to do, and although she did not speak, she came to a school board meeting because she wanted to show her support, for something that was so important to her.  So for those saying to “go away”, now you know why we cannot; because this initiative is to help those that do not have the choices that most of us have, and those are the people that want our help, and so the initiative will continue. For those that do not care for healthful lunches (and they can be very tasteful, contrary to what some may believe), I say pack your children their lunches, because unlike the woman mentioned above, you do have a choice. 

Although change is never easy for anyone, and sometimes causes resistance, it usually turns out to be for the better.  The government is making many of these changes that are being blamed on this initiative.  The initiative agrees with many of the changes, as they are for the better health and well -being of the children and are helping to set them up for more productive school days and healthier, longer lives.  For those who disagree with that, you will never understand this initiative and therefore will never support it.  But please do us, the people who want to work for the greater good, a favor; stop with the name calling, finger pointing and stating totally inaccurate facts.  NIS is trying to do a good thing, we should not be made to feel so badly for doing it.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Joe Koenig August 24, 2012 at 04:25 PM
The government used the food pyramid for 30 years. Anyone looking at it knew if you ate food in that quantity, you would look like a blimp. Just because the governmnet mandates it, does not make it right. It just means if you want their $$, you will comply. Do you see something wrong with that?? I think people are wary of those who want to tell them "they must do things this way." That does not mean they wouldn't do it on their own, it just allows no flexibility or personal choice. Providing healthier choices is a great idea, but choices (leaving it to the parents) is the key word. Many of us are tired of being told how to behave, what to do, etc. It has little to do with the quality of your idea.
Stacey Margo August 24, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Joe, I totally agree that the government does not always have our best interest at heart. That is actually an understatement. That said, there are many people that do, myself included. And that's why we've done our homework and have asked the tough questions...particularly at this last board meeting. We've asked to see the REAL budgets, asked to look at the contracts tied to rebates (associated with processed foods). What are the deals going on behind the scenes that we don't know about. For example: children are forced to take milk as part of their selection--whether or not they like it; that's part of the USDA requirement and perhaps a wasted product (as least for my child). Did you know you can't buy bottled water??? And did you know that Upper Dublin was serving Pink Slime? When I asked Food Services about this, they told me it was off the menu for last year, 2011-12, but when I asked if it would continue to be off forever, I was never given an answer. So while I appreciate all the comments about leaving it up to the parents, we are, in fact, leaving it up to the parents. Because right now, I don't feel secure enough to leave it up to Food Services. Frankly, I don't feel that anyone is doing enough to keep our children healthy without pushing and pushing to make it happen. I don't appreciate deceptive practices: substituting preservatives where fresh fruit should be. PinkSlime where real meat should be. Frankly, I question anyone who does.
Jill Florin August 24, 2012 at 05:43 PM
just to clarify my point about the government....we all know that there are many other things that dictate decisions made by he government, and usually they have to with money, as the pizza is vegetable thing. We all know that the government is not always looking out for the best interest of anyone, especially the kids. But for once, the increase in frutis and vegetables and whole grains is a good thing. My point was that if people are so unhappy with the alleged waste situation (notice I said alleged, since no documentation to support it at this time) and think it is due to the change in meal choice, it should not be blamed on NIS, as this is a government mandated,new regulation and it just so happens that THIS particular regulation is one that the NIS agrees with, so we are trying to help to move this change along in the best way possible. I will say again, most of us are fortunate and have choices, schools are the place to teach and present the best and healthiest choices available and that also means the food (fuel offerred for growing bodies and minds), if someone does not like that, they always have the choice to pack a lunch of their choosing for their child.
Jodi Hallen August 24, 2012 at 06:26 PM
My 4th grade daughter's friend was over today and described what happened in the cafeteria when she dropped her hot dog on the floor-- IT BOUNCED. Hmmmmm....
Stefanie Loev August 26, 2012 at 11:09 AM
Most children these days have a diet that primarily consists of chemicals. Not actual food - but chemicals. Many of these products were actually developed with good intentions but have been scientifically proven to be making ourselves and our children sick. Food is not inexpensive. We have been deceived because the chemicals we eat are cheaper than actual food and we have come to expect those prices. We can either pay for actual food now or we can continue to pay higher and higher healthcare costs as our children grow into adults and experience severe health conditions and diseases. Everyone is responsible - the government, the food companies, restaurants, schools, camps, super markets, and PARENTS, PARENTS, PARENTS!!!
Alan August 27, 2012 at 12:47 AM
I'm a little confused as to who is on which side. Above, Jill suggests that NIS is only following USDA regs for healthier menus. Stacey, in her comment, suggests that milk is a wasted USDA requirement. Is NIS pro- or anti- NSDA? Also, I agree with Jill that it "is easy to make statements about things like additional waste and cost, but with no financial information to back them up, they again become inaccurate." But then Stacey makes a suggestion about rebates, etc. Sounds like a conspiracy. Any proof to back it up? Or is that an inaccurate statement?
Stacey Margo August 27, 2012 at 01:09 AM
Alan, I personally feel that milk is a wasted USDA product. Currently, children are only offered two drink options at the line, which they must take one of. My child only drinks water, and you can only get that from the fountain, outside of that area. So, to me, yes, milk is a waste. And, it goes along as a contracted service with the government. As for the juice, well chalk that up to unnecessary sugar being offered. As for the rebates, here is a link to a blog I read...this woman did tons of research on all processed food, some of which UD buys from. As mentioned, I posed this question at the last Board meeting and was told that, yes, we do receive rebates. We were also told that Financial would be looked into at another upcoming meeting. It's important to know what products we are buying from and if any incentives are being offered. This is not an NIS question; again, this is a problem that plagues many schools nationally...we have the right to know where/how/why food is chosen and on what basis. As Jill mentioned, the cafeterias are not in the for-profit business... http://www.theslowcook.com/2011/10/18/processed-food-rebates-dominate-school-cafeterias/
Jill Florin August 27, 2012 at 01:44 AM
HI Alan: Thank you so much for your questions. I will try and answer the most accurately that I can. USDA is what governs the National School Lunch programs rules and regulations. NIS is neither pro or against USDA, it is more about what regulations that they are enforcing. There are many USDA regulations that do not seem to make much sense, one of which has to do with the milk issue. As Stacey pointed out, Milk is one of two options in the lunch line, bottled water is not an option unless you would pay extra. There is also a criteria for which the school can consider a lunch a reimbursable lunch, water is never counted. It is very complicated, and honestly, I at one time knew all of these regulations like the back of my hand, but have since become less familiar because they seem to change very often and are hard to keep up with. On the point of rebates, yes that is sadly accurate. Stacey has sent the link to the article which explains more about what is done and which companies participate. This is a reputable source. As Stacey said, she directly asked the question at the last board meeting about whether our school takes part in this practice, and the answer was yes. We do not know to what extent or for what products, but hopefully that will be explained at the board meeting when they discuss the Food Service financials. I hope this helps to clarify some things for you, thanks again for your interest and I would be happy to answer any additional questions.
Jill Florin August 27, 2012 at 02:01 AM
One additional note Alan, I am sorry I forgot to address your issue with healthier options. Yes, the USDA has tried to come up with better options on the lunch line with the new Helathy Hunger Free Kids Act. Here is the link to read the summary of the changes that the ACT is making in regards to the school lunch programs, some really great stuff. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-01-26/pdf/2012-1010.pdf
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