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NIS Blog-Navigating New Nutrition Regulations

navigating through the new regulations and what they mean to the body and the bottom line

In light of the fact that there seems to be so much
misperception regarding the importance of the nutrition initiative, I thought I
would spend some time to catch everyone up on what is going on.  As, even though I have been involved in this for some time, I am also left confused.

The new government regulations have begun to take effect for our National School Lunch Program. (which also includes Breakfast)  Rather than spend time explaining them, I will sum it up and attach the link for those that want more information.  The new regulations, known as the Healthy
Hunger-Free Kids Act, seem to be getting much attention.  The goal of this new Act is to have lunches that are more nutritional by adding fruits and vegetables and more whole grains.  Ultimately there will be more involved, like grains needing to have a “whole grain” as its first component in a list of ingredients, and sodium levels that are below 700 mg per meal for the highschool and even lower for the elem and middle school.  There is also now not only a minimum, but also a maximum, calorie limit per meal. Although this seems difficult, especially for the athletes that may need more than what is allotted, this does not mean that they cannot have more to eat, it just means they cannot have more in their reimbursable lunch.  For example, it will cut down on a child having two hot dogs or cheese steaks, but they can have additional vegetables and fruits at no additional cost.    Also for the athletes who need energy for practice or games later in the day, having a healthful snack, would probably help to curb hunger pangs.  But having this lead to less kids buying lunch, is a possibility.

http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/governance/legislation/LAC_03-06-12.pdf

One benefit of these new regulations, is allowing creativity
and more push to create freshly prepared meals. Processed foods notoriously have high sodium levels and are filled with many unwanted chemicals and additives. It is recommended, as a way to control that, to cook your own food from fresh ingredients.  Before we say “there is no time for cooking”
or “we do not have the equipment for cooking”, that is not the case, as there
were freshly prepared meals last year and with some practice, it ran smoothly,
and sold well.   This year we are unfortunately back to almost all processed non nutritional foods.   Considering that Food Service reported that we are down in sales from last year(same time frame), It seems that contrary to what some may believe, selling processed foods is not necessarily the answer to the financial issues at hand. 

Since there have been many comments suggesting that there is
no need to do this stuff in schools, I wanted to share a link to address why
this issue of childhood obesity needs to be addressed, as it is affecting our national security.

http://www.missionreadiness.org/2012/statement-in-support-of-updated-school-meal-standards/

As the first Newly reformulated Nutrition Advisory meeting took place this week , it was upsetting to see so many non- nutritional items being discussed as continuing or being added to the menu, even though there was no documentation to support that these items had ever sold well. So if it is not a top selling item and has a poor nutritional profile, why would it even be up for discussion? 


I left the meeting very confused, as it seems that we never have ALL of the information needed to make the best educated decisions, but yet a vote is still taken, and decision is made. It would have of course been helpful to see the cost and ingredients (per meal) of every meal offered in the district, the profit margin and rebate information, as well as the sales (by location) information, but yet it seems like we never have any of that information available, and we continue to make decisions blindly.  When decisions are made without all of the information, we all know it just leads to more problems.

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.

Dr Steven Greene October 04, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Thanks for this valuable information Jill. A complex issue for certain, but the bottom line should be the health / well being of the children... smart food choices are very important and best to learn early in life. it should be about politics and special interests.
Joe Koenig October 04, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Who is on the Advisory Committee?? What vote did they take? Is their vote for reccomendaton to the Board?? Do they have a right to implement policy?? They are not elected. A question I asked a couple of Board members, what happens if we ignore the Federal guidlines?? Do we lose $$ and/or other things. We don't get that much Federal $$.
Stacey Margo October 04, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Jill, thanks once again for bringing these issues to light. Once again, we are left asking, "why do we have policy in place if no one is held to consequence to follow?" And who is on the NAC that has credentials to back up nutritional guidelines? Surely they all must, given that resumes were asked to be submitted in order to be on such a committee correct? If so, how in the world are cheesesteaks and onion rings and soda being sold? And how is water considered a snack? I shake my head in horror that this is 2012 and obesity, heart disease and diabetes are a reality in our young children, and yet the Upper Dublin School System sits back and allows Patti Del'Arringa to play Demon and reign terror on our kids...
Greenbyrd October 04, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Hi Joe, Good questions... the Nutrition Advisory Committee was created by Dr. Pladus and is headed by the food service director. In Upper Dublin's Wellness Policy, it says any new foods introduced must be approved by the Nutritional Advisory Committee...using the policy's "avoid" list to provide healthier options. In late spring, the food service director created a new "rule" for belonging to this Nutritional Advisory Committee...one must submit a letter of intent and go through an interview process!! A very qualified, former member (nurse, and dietician!) was denied membership (or voting power)!! This is a person who has volunteered countless hours, and offered her expertise in the field of nutrition ONLY when asked. She also happens to be a person who would NOT vote to have foods containing TRANS FATS added to the new foods being served to our kids. And, Upper Dublin would never jump the Federal ship, and forego the guidelines...it is much too difficult to run a profitable cafeteria without all the federal "freebies" we get a lot more than anyone thinks. Our district wants to sell both the non-nutritive, highly processed, high profit foods, along side the "healthier" stuff...and it's not working! Kids...given the choice, will choose recess, art, and gym over Math, Spelling, and Reading...but in the cafeteria, they can always choose what is wrong for them!! Our schools must start to practice what they teach...eat a balanced meal!!
Jill Florin October 04, 2012 at 04:12 PM
HI Joe, thanks for the comment /questions as they are really great ones. The advisory committee, as Grennbyrd said, used to be a group of dedicated parents, many who were dieticians or had other qualifications in nutrition. These people slowly started to leave due to the time that had been wasted on reaching an agreement, and then something else taking place...it seemed like we were getting nowhere. The committee was then reorganized at the end of last year where voting members would be 5 self appointed administrative members, 1 student, and 4 community members. The community members had to send in resumes and letters of interest and then there were interviews and the members were chosen. 2 of the community members are new and had never attended a meeting in the past, so not sure how voting membership was determined, but one very qualified person who had dedicated many hours to this cause, as was said, was passed up....that should not have happened. As for the federal guidelines, they are all being followed, they need to be to get reimbursement from the fed and the state. The wellness administrative regs were an additional checklist that was really just to get away from highly processed foods, which would be in everyone's best interest. Does not mean it would necessarily cost more money, and actually could help the bottom line.
Stacey Margo October 04, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Hi Greenbyrd. Great point! Amazing how we cower to our children, especially in school. I'm sorry but since when do children dictate curriculum? If we teach them how and what to eat, then why our we not following up with best practices in the cafeteria? Why do they have the option of choosing junk at all? It is not about best sellers. Obviously they would choose ice cream all day if they could. It is our duty as parents, caregivers, teachers, educators, etc to TEACH them, to guide them and put in front of them what is best. And perhaps if we creatively came up with options that tasted good as well...they do exist...they would enjoy what they ate! Lead by example. It really is that simple.
Greenbyrd October 04, 2012 at 04:17 PM
This Nutrition Advisory Committee must be exposed. It is just a fake committee created to fool the public into thinking there is some over-site into what is being served to our kids! The school board should know what is going on...they put the Wellness Policy into action, and Dr. Pladus is ultimately responsible. Time to take action! Serving meatballs with hydrogenated oil, onion rings and cheese steaks does not warrant Upper Dublin having a Nutrition Advisory Committee with half a brain!!
UD Mom October 04, 2012 at 04:43 PM
The Nutrition Advisory Committee needs to tell the school board and the Upper Dublin community what they are really doing and exactly what they approved (ingredients and all). The rest of us who are not part of that committee would probably assume that the ingredients are available and have been reviewed and none of the 'Avoid' ingredients in the Wellness Policy Admin. Regulations are in the foods, which is not the case! Since we don't have ingredients yet, we can't even check (http://udfs.wikispaces.com/Menu+Ingredients)
Stacey Margo October 04, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Unfortunately, the policy the Board established is as fake as the committee Patti is heading. Perhaps this needs to go stepS further... I was admonished for suggesting "kickbacks" at a recent board meeting...makes one wonder what really is being covered up??? What could possibly be the reason that Pladus and the Board refuse to serve our children proper nutrition? If we continually suggest healthy food at same or lower costs, I am just at a loss...
Cecelia McMichael October 04, 2012 at 06:18 PM
I believe most members of this committee are Registered Dieticians who have the education to support their decisions. Could I respectfully ask what educational background Jill has? The US Department of Agriculture has put regulations in place that Upper Dublin Food Service along with every public school district in the country must comply with. They are audited by the Department of Education to make sure that they comply with these regulations. Perhaps if Jill has a problem with this she should contact the US Agriculture Department or the PA Department of Education to ask how she can help to make a difference. Just a note, I do realize theseverity of the obesity problem. I do not think school districts are wholly to blame BUT school districts have been called upon to help the students learn that they need whole wheat products, fresh fruits and fresh vegetables and what a healthy portion size is. It will take time but hopefully students will learn and make life long healthy eating habits. The obesity problem did not happen over night and it will not be solved over night.
Greenbyrd October 04, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Right...the USDA's acceptable, reimbursable lunch can be...french toast sticks, artificial syrup, canned peaches (in syrup), and chocolate milk! Any registered dietician knows that is a healthy, well-balanced meal!! So, yes Upper Dublin does abide with the Fed regs for school lunches, and YES, Jill and many of us have spoken to the State and Fed about the low standards of their policies. We have been told, that is why the mandate was set for every school district to write a Wellness Policy, so, districts can impose their own rules about what can and can not be served to it's students!! Upper Dublin strives to be better than average in Academics and Athletics...why not in the food that is served to it's students. And, I mean to the students in this district who have no choice but to eat what is served to them!
LancerRM October 04, 2012 at 07:39 PM
The members of the NIS group need to voice their displeasure to the Board and Dr. Pladus and don't give up until they answer your questions/concerns. Dr. Pladus sits back and is letting Patti be the "fall guy". Unfortunately there is only 4 min. to speak during "community input", and where that time limit comes from I have no idea. If they really care, there would actually be some time for "community discussion" so that clear answers can be provided PRIOR to any votes. The Board and Dr. Pladus only care about the students' test scores and how they make the District look (and their new Taj Mahal). If they really cared about the students eating healthier foods, then the NIS group wouldn't still have to deal with all of this. Dr. Plaudus and the Board should get the parents that don't want the changes during an NIS meeting and hire a few independent professionals to come in and explain why it is important for kids to eat healthier meals in school, not to mention why it is important for kids to learn about eating better in school. Stacey, the District's solicitor is a major source of the problem, as Mr. Roos' law firm advises the District that they only have to do what they are legally responsible to do. You should be able to ask about the "rebates" that the District receives. Dr. Pladus and the Board then make the decisions on what they want to do that is morally or ethically above that... Why was there no discussion about the candidates for the NAC before the vote?
LancerRM October 04, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Was there any public discussion regarding the members of the NAC? I would like to know more about the people that were not accepted. Was the committee stacked in favor of the District? I What are the qualifications of the members selected and not selected? Why did the Board and Dr. Pladus rush to vote on the community members chosen? The Board and Dr. Pladus need to be asked at the Board meeting on camera if the NAC has any power to vote on things if they weren't elected to their positions.
Greenbyrd October 04, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Hi LancerRM I do not know if there was any public announcement about the new requirements to be a Nutrition Advisory Member...I got an email from the food service director. And, since I am no longer a member, I can not ask why a qualified person did not get chosen to serve. it is absolutely stacked in favor of the food service director. I do believe that some board members and some times Dr. Pladus think the food service is doing all good things, and that we parents are a thorn in their side...some truth to this. The food service workers are trying to improve what is served. But, Dr. Pladus still believes that food service should serve the processed foods (that have a very high profit margin) along side of healthier foods...it just it's working. He thinks we rate as an "A" for food served...obviously he has never eaten in the elementary school! Upper Dublin will not commit to serving only healthy options. While other districts in our area and across the country are making great strides, we still serve Pizza DAILY, mozzarella sticks, cheese steaks, chicken bites and General Tso's chicken (sodium content for three days!), canned fruit, and chocolate milk! The food service and district are just not going to make any big changes...the little ones are failing. Which third grader will buy a turkey wrap and an apple over chicken bite, fries and chocolate milk???
Stacey Margo October 04, 2012 at 08:28 PM
We ask and ask and are continuously shut down. It is frustrating to say the least. I'm not sure if you were at the last Board Meeting...what a carnival that was! When Larry Florin got up during input time, he was cut off umpteen times when he tried to discuss the budget; this is something that was requested over and over again, through means of the Freedom to Know Act, and never followed through on. That is the problem: we are never given enough information, or even any information. You mention test scores being at the forefront: children can't succeed without proper nutrition...that is a FACT. Children can't excel in sports without proper nutrition...that is a FACT. If we are forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars in taxes for this Taj Mahal, at the very least, please feed our children the very best to be the very best!
Jill Florin October 04, 2012 at 10:00 PM
HI Cecelia, Thanks for your comment. Are you still the food service director at Hatboro Horsham? The Advisory committee is not mostly Registered Dieticians, and in all honesty, I do not believe that only registered dieticians would be able to decide acceptable foods. If we have a regulation in place that was done with the input of dieticians, very knowledgeable parents and medical professionals, then all that really needs to be done is to follow it. Most importantly is that this committee have people, especially the voting members, that are all for the cause so that decisions can be made with the right intent.
Stacey Margo October 05, 2012 at 01:35 AM
I don't see Jodi's comment here, now, but I can only say that I share her deep frustration with the treatment of the NAC, and the parents that have spent countless, tiresome hours only to strive to do what's best for ALL children. We seek to give voices to all children, and all parents, that deserve the best welfare and health in our school system. It is not too much to ask. Yet we are continuously demonized, bullied, attacked, and even called atrocious names like, "nutrition-nazis." It is easy to feel defeated and want to give up. But we won't. I have learned so much from my teammates on the NIS, led by Jill Florin. And the harder you try to knock us down, the stronger we become. There is a reason you want us to go away and give up our fight...but we won't. We will not succumb to the lies...we will keep going because our children need us to. It's not about us, it's about them...it's always been about them and it always will be about them. UD seems to have forgotten this in their code of ethics and policy but we haven't...and we won't.
Cecelia McMichael October 05, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Hi Jill, I actually retired last summer but my concern over the future of our children is still a concern. Unfortunately, there is no magic potion. Education is vital to this challenge along with a lot of support from home. Unfortunately many meals today are eaten outside of the home and school. We all know the oversized portions in restaurants today. Also because of time and money limitations many families eat at fast food restaurants on a regular basis. As you well know obesity is a huge problem! Education both in eating healthy and in physical activity is key in helping to solve the problem of obesity.
Greenbyrd October 05, 2012 at 12:18 PM
Hi Cecelia, I am also a former food service worker(17 years) and I also agree that education is the key to feeding kids more healthy foods. But, it is not ok for kids to be able to purchase highly processed foods every day from the school cafeteria! It would be nice to be able to switch back to the "serve only" system...then kids would actually be getting what parents think they are getting...a balanced meal on their tray! But most do not know this is an " offer verses serve only" system where kids pick the four components they want to make up their reimbursable lunch. And without much marketing, or education about kids having to take a fruit or veggie for their lunch to be reimbursable...sales will be down. A quick solution is to have plenty of fruit juices at the cashier, so kids can just grab a juice to get through the line, and then toss it before they even sit down to eat! FAILURE!! Everyone must be involved in the education of this transition to real food. School board, supers, teachers, principals, students, and parents. Kids have to know why we are having them eat more fruits and veggies, whole grains, less salt and less calories. And it has to be taught and reinforced by all to succeed! Our district does a great job teaching health and nutrition at all levels, but there is no connection with the cafeterias. Kids still get to buy chicken bites with a roll, canned pears, and chocolate milk. Where is the fiber? The vegetable, the real fruit???
Greenbyrd October 05, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Also want to say that I teach kids and families how to make real, good-tasting, healthy meals for $10 or less ( to feed 4-5) . I had to get away from this "war-like" atmosphere and do some good. My 1st and second graders know the difference between a complex and simple carbohydrates in every day foods that they consume! Most educated adults don't know the differences! Kids should not have to choose between healthy foods that are good for them, and processed, fast foods with little nutritional value AT SCHOOL...they can not choose to have only gym, art and recess all day or to read pornography...we do dictate what we teach them academically...why not when it comes to nutrition?? Kids need a balanced meal served to them at school...PERIOD! Thanks for reading
Stacey Margo October 05, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Greenbyrd, last year when we actually were "allowed" to be more involved with the tastings (that they've since deemed un-necessary and have since taken away,) it was so amazing to be a part of. You commented that we ALL need to be involved. Never a truer statement. We were able to stand in line with the kids, help them understand the impact of their choices...so they could see the connection between what they were learning in the classroom and relate it to the cafeteria! Then the real conversations start! I went to each table and spoke to the children...about why they packed lunch vs bought, discussed the food choices. This was done in all school levels. On top of that, the conversations...even at the elementary levels...were beyond insightful. If I could tell you the number of girls who at that age were discussing body image and anorexia! Wow!!! Discussions and real conversations with these children are so powerful. It's not about numbers and profits. It's about education and people. When will UD actually start to LISTEN???

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