A new political climate has descended on Washington, D.C.

The shift is brought by a changing political dynamic, as Republicans now hold a majority in both houses of Congress along with the Presidency, and a coinciding changing tide in legislators’ visions for the nation.

The differences between the Democratic and Republican Party exceed just the realm of economic, international, and social issues- these differences spill over even to their policies on child education and nutrition. Although that shouldn’t be surprising.

The Same Priorities, Different Approaches

After the Farm Bureau Convention concluded on January 10th, 2017 one thing was certain: when it comes to nutrition, farmers back the idea of incorporating more fruits and vegetables in child nutrition and coordinating with nutrition programs to make these available for students.

The rallying cry for all those with their noses in school nutrition has always been pursuing the best interest of students. The policy to make that happen though, is where roads stop converging.

In December, the House Freedom Caucus, consisting of a small group of influential conservative lawmakers, sent a list of regulations and rules they wanted dismantled to the desk of President-elect Donald Trump.

What landed on the desk of President-elect Trump, it turns out was nutritional policy.

With the House Freedom Caucus already starting their push to dismantle hundreds of policy initiatives specified under the Obama administration- change now seems imminent.

What may be surprising is the swiftness with which decisions began to be made on Capitol Hill by Republican Party leaders to change existing child nutrition regulations launched under the Obama administration.

To change anything, conservatives must rally and whip their party votes in both the House and the Senate effectively, which is never hard for a party known for being able to unite on a vote.

With a Republican president in power, Republicans will be the only thing standing in their way if they aim to enact new or dismantle existing nutritional policy.

So what do these proposed changes include?

According to the Freedom Caucus, it includes the school lunch program at the very top of its agenda. Citing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2012, and concerns over what they consider “burdensome and unworkable [standards] for schools to implement.”

The House Freedom Caucus also cites concerns on whether students are eating or just throwing away the food schools are now required to serve.

With plenty of research to back that new standards are pushing students towards healthier choices and improving their nutrition, especially compared to lunches brought from home, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, the Freedom Caucus isn’t free of opposition on any of their new propositions.

Solutions are being worked now by the new Congressional leadership as to how best to address the issues facing child nutrition. One thing they all already seem to be certain of: the current regulations aren’t working for their vision of America’s child nutrition agenda.

Alongside HHFKA, we can expect Republican leadership to push towards looser regulations in all aspects of school nutrition policy.

When it comes to funding these programs, it’s never a popular opinion to pull funding from any child-related expenses, but with sweeping wins, Republicans may feel they currently have political capital to spare.

Only time will tell.

Comment below and let us know what you think. Does HHFKA need to be reworked? What are some issues you see in your program or which you would liked to be improved?

Tune in as we continue to follow the latest news on changes that may be coming to your school nutrition program. 

By | 2017-10-18T19:29:54+00:00 January 11th, 2017|Categories: Blog, News, Policy|Tags: , , , |61 Comments

About the Author:

My background is in political and legislative analysis with an added marketing twist. I aim to comprehensively understand and communicate the challenges facing your program, and provide some building blocks to ensure its success. I love to hear your suggestions and questions in the comments!

61 Comments

  1. BECKY SANFORD January 11, 2017 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    I do not believe that school food is what causes childhood obesity.I do know that being in the cafeteria at lunch time See a lot more food thrown away than ate !So i do believe something needs to be changed

    • Harib Massu January 11, 2017 at 4:14 pm - Reply

      You’re right, Becky, food waste is definitely an ongoing issue that needs to be dealt with.
      I actually published a blog on just that last year: food is only nutritious if we actually get kids to eat it.
      It doesn’t matter to us who has the solutions, as long as we get some!
      Check out the article on food waste and tips on managing it in your program. Let me know what you think! We love taking input!

  2. CATHY FORD January 11, 2017 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    I have been in the Child Nutrition business for 15 years and these new regulation and guidelines to restrictive , and yes the HHFKA needs to be reworked. I believe and always have believed that the portion size and calories restriction for High school ages is not enough , this age group need more, they are growing and most are very active in sports. The requirement that every child select a fruit or vegetable with the meal in-order to receive reimbursement is ridiculous; having 100% whole grain for the week is too much, have 50 %, do not lower the sodium level any lower then the current target rate. I do feel strongly that offering students those variety of fruit and vegetable is a must and should be continued. so overall the regulation are not bad , just need to be changed a little.

    • Harib Massu January 11, 2017 at 4:18 pm - Reply

      There is definitely room for improvement, you’re very right, Cathy.
      There’s a lot of research showing how hard it is to strike the balance between effective nutrition for students, and reasonable demands for schools. We’re looking ahead and keeping our fingers crossed that whatever changes come take some input from those in the industry that see where the real problems are.
      Keep giving me your input as I follow along the progress being made in the legislature, I need insights from professionals who deal with these problems every day!

  3. Sandy Scheele January 11, 2017 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    I believe there needs to be some minor tweaking but not a complete overhaul. I feel we have made great strides to a healthier future. The food served or not served in a school cafeteria can be blamed for childhood obesity alone.

    • Harib Massu January 11, 2017 at 4:21 pm - Reply

      I agree Sandy, too much research shows obesity can only be tackled with a holistic approach to child health.
      School lunches alone are not the problem, and they won’t be a solution.
      Hopefully healthier habits can be established in schools and carried off into students’ homes. We’ll have to wait and see what comes with the new administration. In the mean time, I’ll keep counting on readers like you to let us know the real impact to schools any proposed changes will have on your students.

  4. JoAnn Wright January 11, 2017 at 4:13 pm - Reply

    I am director/manager at Murphy Harpst Children’s Center which is a RCCI Residenital Child Care Institution. Since USDA put all RCCI’s under the NSLP it has been a nightmare. To start with we have a limited budget, we are short staff. At a RCCI you wear many hats, for instance I am the director, manager, menu planner, record keeper,shopper, custodian, and anything else that needs doing. We have so much paperwork to do since going under the NSLP it is impossible to keep up no matter how many hours you work. Our children do not go home this is their home. Most of our children are on some type of medication making it impossible to stay in compliance with the meal pattern. We cook homemade meals that are nutritious, but we are not always able to stay in compliance. We receive food donations from different stores which helps with our food budget, but creates so much paperwork. I understand that we have to be regulated, but for heaven shakes there has to be a better way for the RCCI’s than under the NSLP. I have begged our state area consultants to come and see our operation, and see how different we are from a public school. Something has got to change. So many of the RCCI’s no longer participate in the program, because of all the regulations and paperwork. What a shame at the end of the day it is all about the children. Our children have been taken out of their homes for one reason or the other. They have no where else to go. Please help us get out from under this bureaucracy so that we can do our job which is taking care of these children.

    • Harib Massu January 11, 2017 at 4:44 pm - Reply

      JoAnn, those are serious concerns. Republicans will often cite the concern that Federal regulations provided blanketed solutions that may not actually help some states, districts, schools, or in your case RCCI’s.
      Something to look forward for your particular program may be laxed regulations that ease the current nutritional constraints.
      If this is a serious issue for you, I would strongly suggest you contact your local state representative and invite them to tour your facility.
      Facilitating an exchange between the director of your state agency (or their consultants) and your district’s (federal) Congressional Representative, would also be beneficial. District offices for Federal Representatives are the best way to get your concerns on their desk, and every call, email, or letter you send is logged and will receive a response.
      These are sensitive issues that have to be handled with care, and unfortunately you’re right, some times the bureaucratic process prevents that from taking place.
      Please keep me updated on everything.

  5. Sherry Forgy January 12, 2017 at 10:34 am - Reply

    Yes I definitely believe the HHFKA needs to be revised. Making the students take a fruit or veggie only wastes money. If they get to the register and do not have it on their tray, they do not want it and are not going to eat it. Also the whole grain requirement is totally too much. If you like whole grain products, you will eat them. If you don’t like whole grain products, you are not going to eat them. I personally hate whole grain and wheat products and there are a lot of my students that feel the same way. I see the lunches that are brought from home and it makes me sick. Twinkies, chips, candy, ramen noodles, cup cakes, all because we can’t fix them food that they like and will eat. I hope some things change, for the sake of the ones that matter, the kids.

  6. Suzette White January 12, 2017 at 11:05 am - Reply

    I work in the Public School System and see lots of food not eaten and thrown away. I do believe there should be a change. I also believ obesity does not start in schools it is where parents choose to take their child or feed their child out of school and what drinks are consumed at home or restaraunts. Also depends on how much excercise each child gets at home and out of school. School recess and PE have been shortened tremendously because people feel children need more class room time because of Testing. Children do not get enough excersise sitting in a classroom for many hours, and most children dont even get enough excersise out of school. I do believe fruit and vegetables need to be incorporated in lunches but not food that is not fit to be enjoyed and ends up being wasted.

    • Harib Massu January 12, 2017 at 12:24 pm - Reply

      This is a great summary of the issues ahead of us, Suzette.
      Child health has no one answer, the answer is only in balancing a healthy lifestyle in all aspects of a child’s life. That includes at home. The aim is always that healthy school lunches cause children (and even parents) to develop healthier preferences and choices. Whether that’s actually been the case remains debatable.
      Balancing healthy and tasty is a centuries-old problem for parents, expecting the school system to find the solution can be a big task to handle. I’m not sure whether the new administration will do better than the last at tackling this issue, but for the sake of students, I hope a solution is on the horizon.
      Keep us updated with everything as we post on how things in Washington progress!

  7. Jamye S. Stokes January 12, 2017 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    I have been in school food service as a director for 30 years. Although I agree that childhood obesity needs to be addressed, school food service should not be blamed for the obesity factor itself. We live in a society where mothers are on the go and find it easier to go through a drive in to get an evening meal. Until parents make changes at home we are not going to make great strides in dealing with obesity. I believe that the Sodium Target should be left as it is. If we continue to follow the Sodium Target guidelines, we will not be feeding anyone–child or adult. I agree with others that have commented in that bread/grains should only be whole wheat for 50% of the week’s time and children should be able to participate in offer vs serve for the entire meal. Another factor that I would like to see changed is to be able to sell extra all menu components especially if all menus have met the law’s regulations. We feed hungry kids. That is our goal and will always be our goal.

    • Harib Massu January 12, 2017 at 1:18 pm - Reply

      Thank you for looking out for our kids for as long as you have, Jamye!
      This is definitely not always an easy industry to maneuver.
      Republicans tend to push for less federal regulation. I’ve been hearing feedback that if that allows for schools to have more choice that appeals to children, industry professionals are open to hearing what this new Congress will propose. We’re all ready for comprehensive policy in the industry. So far we’ve seen a lot of advantages from HHFKA and existing regulations, but taking feedback from those directly implementing these standards is a must.
      I hope you keep up with my posts as I continue to cover what’s upcoming on the new Congress’ agenda. Fingers crossed it’s all for the better, as you said, we all have only one goal!

  8. Bonnie Blake January 12, 2017 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    I am also a Manager of a rural school located in Logan Co. Kentucky. Our student body has around 400 students. I have worked in food service for nearly 23 years. I have seen many changes over the years. Some good some not so good. There was a time when I fed around 375 students. Now I do good to serve 220. I have 100 plus students bringing lunch boxes because they do not like the way we prepare our food now. Whole grain products, keeping sodium low(like using low sodium beans and then not adding salt). Yes I believe in eating healthy but if it is not taught at home and practiced then you cannot force a child to eat that way at school. I also believe in offer v serve. Offer it to a child but don’t make him take it! Let us offer salt, cook and prepare the food like we once did. A little added ingredients want hurt. If children got more PE time then that would burn off some of those extra calories that we are so concerned with. I hope we do have changes for the best because it is really about the children.

    • Harib Massu January 12, 2017 at 3:02 pm - Reply

      Thank you for sharing your experiences with me, Bonnie!
      There’s been a couple of studies out that have tracked a decrease in participation, as you mentioned.
      What we see kids bringing to school for lunch tells us the problem is a much larger one than just what’s found in a school cafeteria menu. Here’s hoping whatever changes come, your school sees a positive impact from it all. Keep me updated and let me know how your school is doing. It’s important to hear the concerns of rural and smaller districts along with the bigger ones we tend to hear of.

  9. Teresa January 12, 2017 at 6:27 pm - Reply

    I am a middle school cook. The plus side of the standards are more fresh fruits snd vegetables. The downside is that the standards were in place before the vendors gad compliant foods. It took 3 yrs for them to catch up and come up with “decent” edible, whole grain foods. Some are still unpalatable. The other misfortune is that government commodity chicken allotment is all PROCESSED! Gone are the days of chicken on the bone. It’s nuggets and strips. Because one student might get.02 oz more by eating a thigh than a student eating wings or legs. I’m way past over it. Wish they would listen to the preparers. Rant over.

    • Harib Massu January 13, 2017 at 9:32 am - Reply

      Your perspective is so important to giving us the full picture, Teresa, I’m so glad to have you engaged in this discussion!
      No one seems to disagree with children having healthy lunches or even the need for more fruits and vegetables, but you point out something very important: wanting something isn’t enough to make it happen. Often times regulation changes come with big timelines of implementation to ensure everyone has time to meet them. When HHFKA was passed I think some variables like location and resources available were not taken in consideration for vendors and schools to the individualized extent that is possible outside of federal regulations.
      Whatever comes, I hope the solution gives us all enough time to prepare for the changes and deliver the most delicious AND nutritious meals to students.
      Please keep me updated on your operations and thoughts!

  10. Stephanie Pavlich January 13, 2017 at 7:01 am - Reply

    There really is a bigger picture here. I do believe the HHFKA needs repaired. While Michelle Obama insists that all kids in school should eat grains, processed foods and sugary milk, why did she have an organic garden at the White House?
    When vendors “create” products to match the rules, how is that considered “healthy”? We are force feeding children and all Americans, GMO’s and pesticide laden food products, which are known carcinogens!

    School food services are not responsible for the increase in obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and Autism, our government is! Why blame HHFKA, parents or the kids themselves? These food choices are cheap, easy to get, and as addictive as opiates. Thank you George W. Bush for approving this method at the cost of all of our health!

    Monsanto is poisoning all of us while claiming the that they can “Feed the World”. How about quality food at affordable prices instead of chemicals?

    The United States has just released the first ever DECLINE in life expectancy! Why? Because of GMO’s, pesticides, and chemicals!
    Our food choices 30+ years ago were not chemical laden. The obesity rate, Type 2 Diabetes and Autism are all food related and is increased for one reason only…the way our food has changed since allowing the almighty dollar to be far more important than our children’s overall health!

    This is my opinion after 5 years working in our school cafeteria department.

    • Harib Massu January 13, 2017 at 9:36 am - Reply

      You make an important point, Stephanie: whatever we currently see working in the industry now is the product of many different hands and administrations. You’re not alone in your concerns about what exactly is considered nutritious, if it’s an option, another colleague of mine wrote a blog on sourcing your food and options to go local to offset some of your concerns. I hope you find some good tips there and are able to make headway into securing the change you want to see within your program. It usually just takes one voice to get everything moving, so keep me updated on how it all goes!

  11. Beverly Legg January 13, 2017 at 7:52 am - Reply

    I believe that there needs to be some work done on the Nutritional Guidelines. Don’t forget how far we have come and all the efforts put into providing our students with healthier options. Not only have the schools had a challenge of making the changes but our vendors too. The Smart Snack Program needs work as to the limitations of what can be served. You would think that anything served on the lunch line can also be served as al a cart not just the day after it has been on the lunch line.. As an example: a entree item that is served for lunch can’t be served as an al a carte item except for the following day. This is crazy. I don’t believe that school lunches has made our children obese, it all starts at home. Thanks for listening

    • Harib Massu January 13, 2017 at 9:51 am - Reply

      The balancing act can be tough, Beverly, and often times it even ignores the actual resources and abilities of some schools or districts.
      If you’re working with our Menu Planning module, hopefully that’s been of some assistance in balancing everything out within your program. Strategic menu planning may help, but it isn’t the only answer to the issues in your program. If you’re up for some work and ready for solutions, I would suggest to take advantage of the changing tide by petitioning and lobbying your Congressional and State Representative for the changes you want. Although it can feel like an uphill battle, it only takes one voice to begin change. Getting a good understanding of the issues in your program, and then contacting the people that are in charge of regulations that affect it, is a sure fire way to get noticed and get things going.
      Keep me updated on how everything goes, and any other challenges you experience due to existing regulations!

  12. Becky Losekamp January 13, 2017 at 11:08 am - Reply

    I have managed to make the HHFKA regulations work but it took a great deal of time and money. 2 years ago I decided that the new regulations places so much attention on fat and calories and very little on the processed community foods that the government said were OK to serve. I have not served a processed piece of meat because if the idea is to teach and show students what real food was I need to prepare it. Low income families can get more processed food cheaper than getting fresh produce. This could has a backwards food industry. In other countries the processed produce is more expensive than the fresh. The obesity problem in this country is largely caused by our consumption of processed food. We need to get back to purchasing and preparing real fresh food.

    • Harib Massu January 13, 2017 at 11:51 am - Reply

      I’d be interested to hear more about how you managed to steer clear of processed meats, Becky. I know that’s an issue that many working in the industry are keeping their eye on, and knowing how one program could succeed without processed items, may help the rest. There are many problems in the food industry within the United States, and striking a balance between private and public interests is always at the head of it all. With a new USDA Secretary coming in, we can only hope he has his fingers on the pulse of this issue as well.

  13. Angela Johnson January 13, 2017 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    I’m the Food Service Director at our local K-12 school. I have to say that I agree with all the other comments. My biggest complaint is the whole grains. It has destroyed perfectly good and popular lunches in our cafeteria. Whole grains are actually harder on the stomach. Next in line is sodium. People need that iodine! It’s not like we are salting everything. Next, the hours of paperwork, it’s endless. I spend more time at my kitchen table, at home, doing paperwork than I do cooking meals. I do believe a lot of schools need a boost for better nutrition, but not all.

    • Harib Massu January 17, 2017 at 10:26 am - Reply

      Thank you for pointing out something that has otherwise gone overlooked in this discussion, Angela, paper work! The work done on the back end often goes overlooked, but most often regulations usually come with a lot of paper work and bureaucracy. Alongside this, the increased frequency of administrative reviews from every 5 to every 3 years means even more stress comes from these audits. I would be interested to hear more about how HHFKA has changed not just the way nutrition is handled in your district, but also within your office and role. The law on the line to be dismantled now carries a lot of regulations within it, the most burdensome one may be convincing students to consume nutritious food, but it’s definitely not the only big one.

  14. Tony Law January 16, 2017 at 5:34 am - Reply

    I use my garden. You can see it on Facebook “cougar cafe and gardens “. I also mentor future chefs and get their ideas on my food. I also have a garden club. When you use the garden in the teacher’s lunches they are more involved with students concerning food waste. I feel that all of these electronic devices are a huge part of obesity and social behavior.

    • Harib Massu January 17, 2017 at 10:35 am - Reply

      I loved the garden, Tony! It is so amazing to see staff to students engaged in the process too! You’ll have to save me some of that fresh cilantro, please!
      These kinds of programs tend to be undermined, but tend to actually have a big and important impact in not just the nutritious options available, but also the engagements students have with their food and interest they take in school and their future. Keep it up!
      For anyone else who is interested to learn more about how to accomplish either going local or growing your own fruits, veggies, and herbs, check out some articles on our page to help you do just that:
      Tips on going local and growing your own produce
      Interview with a Director on starting your own school farm

  15. Donna White January 16, 2017 at 7:36 am - Reply

    In Jasper County, Monticello, Georgia, we have made our food from scratch forever and when the new rules were set into place our lunch counts went down and we also we’re seeing alot of food go in the trash and we still see it today. In one of our schools it is not offer verses serve an every item has to go on each plate. There can not be any peanut items of any kind on the peimieses at all an on top of that wheat allergies are really bad but we have no choice but to serve wheat items so therefore our lunch staff at this school really work hard to find solutions and some parents just don’t understand how hard it already is to follow some of these guidelines. Then we send menus home and those parents have to what their child can eat then we have to figure out the rest so therefore their meal is different from the other kids and those babies don’t understand that. We cook from scratch not prepackaged meals. Farm to school is a great but som3 of those resources are good. DOD produce is USDA but sometimes they don’t have a good variety. U can’t get bananas cause they are not USA, and so on and so on. The wheat is not the greatest an it does change the quality of the food. We are not chefs but we do try our best but our foods are not the reason for the Obesity n our schools. Never has been.

    • Harib Massu January 17, 2017 at 11:00 am - Reply

      These are big challenges to face, Donna, I’m glad to hear your end of things.
      Federal regulations will always have a tough time getting it right every time, let alone for everyone. Seeing a couple of challenges when adapting to new standards is hard, but it’s much harder when it’s legislation like HHFKA which doesn’t just change nutritional standards, but regiments the decisions made inside of cafeterias so stringently.
      The positive thing about having parent involvement is creating programs to get them involved in menu planning or offering suggestions or help may be easier than programs that can’t engage parents. Hopefully your program is able to spin this into a positive.
      Keep me updated as I continue to follow the changes coming from Washington.

  16. Angela Thomas January 16, 2017 at 8:01 am - Reply

    Yes, it ALL needs to be reworked. These kids are not eating, they throw it in the trash. It is a controlled portion at schools. School food is NOT making them overweight. They are active at school. It’s what they do when they go home.

    • Harib Massu January 17, 2017 at 10:50 am - Reply

      Thank you for taking the time to give me your feedback, Angela!
      I’m definitely with you there: the solution has to be a coordination between parents and schools.

  17. Angela Thomas January 16, 2017 at 8:02 am - Reply

    And the Whole Grains!! Not flying

  18. Celia Runkle January 16, 2017 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    School food is a big problem I would not feed most of the fried crap to a dog. Eating healthy food at school is a start. Seems funny a school in Provo UT. can serve great healthy food. Check out their facebook page. ITS MEALS AT Provo School District. Fruit, veggies and whole wheat bread. Reading these comments is so laughable.

    • Harib Massu January 17, 2017 at 10:49 am - Reply

      Every program has its unique challenges and constraints. Thank you for showing us there may be a way to manage it all, Celia.
      Although we love to hear success stories, not all stories are. Many districts face constraints due to the population of their students who are eligible for free or free and reduced lunches, others face the constraint of their location and how that impacts food prices, some face a constraint due to their budget and/or student enrollment amount. The list goes on.
      It can be understandable to see a struggle to meet nutrition regulations among some districts and even states, especially while ensuring school participation.

  19. Dona Kruse January 16, 2017 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    I have been in the school foodservice for 27 years in a k12 rural school. We have always served a full salad bar and fruit every day. We do almost all of our meals from scratch and have had very little waste until the new rules were put in. I don’t think telling a student they have to take fruit or vegetables works, I feel they need to make that decision on their own (the waste has increased since they were told they have to take it). I feel it needs to be available but to force a child is wrong. Being a rural school we have a lot of farming families, students who play sports and with the lower calorie meals for the high school students, they tend to fill up on junk food since they sometimes don’t get home to eat until sometimes 8p.m. I also don’t agree with so much whole wheat requirements, I have seen a growth in gluten issues grow.
    I also feel they need to bring back gym and recess in all schools, these students need exercise.

    • Harib Massu January 17, 2017 at 10:45 am - Reply

      You’re absolutely on the nail with it, Dona, the solution needs to come from multiple approaches.
      Depriving children of enough calories when they’re athletes is never smart, having them fill up with junk food throughout the day or evening, is even worse. However, expecting schools to do so much is a bigger issue. The truth is, every child needs something a little different. Some need fewer calories, others more; some need more protein, others less; the list goes on. The best approach will always be a coordination between schools and parents. Engaging parents with schools is the tough part.
      Drawing the line at what a school nutrition program is and isn’t able to provide is important, and more parent engagement will be necessary to facilitate change. The truth is, we have so many professionals with big hearts in the industry that their involvement with their students never seems enough. Arguably, it may not be at times due to regulations.
      However, aiming to at least provide for a good foundation for the rest of the day and having parents pick up slack where it’s needed (such as in the case of athletes) is an essential part.
      The challenges ahead are tough, but at least we have some beacons of hope like your program that successfully makes salad and fruits available to students daily. Thank you for helping to provide the great example we all love to see!

  20. Sharon January 17, 2017 at 6:05 pm - Reply

    As a lunch manager at an elementary school I was shocked at the money and food that is wasted on the school lunch programs. I do feel like fruits and vegetables need to be offered and promoted but to force them on students has not helped anyone except the trash. And with all the gluten intolerance that is so widespread why are we insisting on a wheat product at every meal? In the long run we are teaching our children that it is okay to be wasteful. America is one of the top countries for waste and now we are teaching our children it is okay.

    • Harib Massu January 18, 2017 at 9:58 am - Reply

      A lot that is overlooked by those outside of Washington who are involved in the nutrition industry is farmers.
      You’re absolutely right about the waste, Sharon. With any questions about why standards are the way they currently are, we can credit two things: health experts whom the government utilizes to create nutritional guidelines, and farm subsidies. A big part of nutrition policy has a lot to also do with farmers and the money the Federal government is already using to assist them and bigger producers. I would think of it as Congress making sure that spending in one place helps spending in another. Luckily, this relationship is what we can credit for the low food prices schools receive on daily meals- not that it’s significant enough to make a dent for most students or programs.
      Making kids eat their fruits and vegetables has never been easy, it’s unfortunate that schools are now carrying the burden of reversing this trend. Thank you for your feedback, hopefully I’ll be hearing from you again as things progress!

  21. kathy January 18, 2017 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    I agree changes need to be made I am also from and RCCI program and we have to follow the same rules and regs as regular schools. we got cited for not doing our meal counts right. we are not allowed to put the kids full name on paperwork due to some kids are here for protection and family members are not allowed to know where they are. Plus some kids are here because they are not use to having food and they live there as well and when we have to give them the food portions they get very angry and upset because they want food. something they did not get at home. I agree with offering the fruits and veggies they do like them but they also want to be able to eat I mean really 1 hot dog for a 9-12 grade school person a cup of fries. We are not a school and we rely on donations we are a non profit RCCI and even have to feed the kids on weekends the portions its sad when the kids look at you and say but I am still hungry why can’t I have more breaks your heart. All this paperwork also takes up 4 hours of your time

    • Harib Massu January 18, 2017 at 3:51 pm - Reply

      Kathy, thank you for sharing your experiences with me, as disheartening as they are to hear.
      I’m unfamiliar with the financial structure of a non-profit RCCI, however, are there any federal regulations which prevent you from fundraising or conducting ways to fund your programs? Do you find that the funding allotted via the programs you’re currently participating in such as NSLP or SBP is insufficient to cover the needs of all the children whom you assist?
      I would definitely love to hear more about your perspective as someone who manages a nutrition program which has more needs than the traditional ones in K-12.

  22. Cindy Jones January 26, 2017 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    Requiring students to take a fruit or vegetable even though they do not want it is very wasteful. The new guidelines have caused food prices to increase and a lot of it is being thrown away. I am all for offering the fruits and vegetables but forcing the students to take it is wasteful.

    Another problem is the calorie requirement. Students athletes do no get enough to keep them going. They are starving by the end of the day and then they have to go to practice or a game which often limits the availability to additional food.

    And don’t get me started on the sodium requirements. These are students not geriatric heart patients.

    • Harib Massu January 26, 2017 at 1:17 pm - Reply

      What a humorous ending to a very serious point, Cindy!
      So many other people I’ve heard from feel the same way you do: we want kids to be healthy, but this doesn’t seem like the best way to protect their health. Although some studies have been released showing the positive benefits of the requirements set forth within HHFKA, practical implementation has proven a challenge. Hopefully with all the changes going on in Washington, you’ll see a solution that fits the way your program operates.

    • Carolyn Osina January 26, 2017 at 4:42 pm - Reply

      Absolutely true. So much is being trashed. I don’t like forcing them to take things. I learn what fruits and veggies they like and would like serve more of just that. And yes, high school students need more to eat. Those teens burn off those calories faster then you realize. And yes – SODIUM – get real. You got to make the food taste good or they won’t eat it.

      • Harib Massu January 27, 2017 at 1:40 pm - Reply

        Thank you so much for contributing to our discussion, Carolyn! Looks like you’re not alone in thinking food needs to get a little tastier for students to engage with school meals.

  23. Sam Blazer January 26, 2017 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    I have been a director since 1986 of a medium sized District. Every aspect of the HHFKA has been a negative for Kids, and negative for the program. Even the studies conducted and outlined by PL111-296 indicated poor and outdated research for its conclusions and reasons for implementation. In many cases left out the details or knowledge of final costs. Example using 10 year old data to make conclusions. “Science Based” is a term I now despise. the caloric targets do not align with the portion size requirements with or without the consideration of offer vs serve. Not only have students stopped eating meals but so have adults. Most school Districts had included multiple fruits and vegetables in their programs before the HHFKA was enacted. Paid Lunch Equity, Professional Standards, Program vs non programs food costs, are all examples of over regulation. Not necessary. A district should be able to determine what those should be. Not a group of individuals in Washington DC and especially the institute of medicine to determine. What we now offer is Hospital food. I would fully support a food based menu system with out the nutritional analysis that is not school grade specific. there are too many school in the country that are not the standard K-5,m6-8,.9-12. I fully support universal free meals. I fully support “Cash in Leiu” of commodities. What a disaster the existing commodity program is. Having to speculate over a year in advance and quantities needed for an upcoming year is costly and wasteful.

    • Harib Massu January 27, 2017 at 1:33 pm - Reply

      Sam, thank you for the insightful remarks. I think a big driving force for the current standards was absolutely research from the Institute of Medicine among maybe one other, and it’s interesting to see how their recommendations actually play out. It seems that too much burden has fallen on schools to completely alter the meal-patterns of their students, whether the research that backed this legislation was legitimate or not. If you check out my latest article http://primeroedge.com/lawmakers-cut-school-lunch-program you may see a couple of points you side with regarding why Republicans are looking to eliminate current federal programs. Although I can’t say any one side has the answer, this is definitely another answer on the table. Follow up with me and let me know what you think!

  24. Deb January 26, 2017 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    I have been in school food service for 20 years.I agree with everyone. We should be feeding our children a healthy lunch. But it should be a healthy lunch the children will eat. There is no nutrition if you can’t get them to eat. I believe a growing body needs a little of everything. I don’t think they realize that a lot of the children we feed ,the school lunch may be the only meal they get through the day. I was Sick for over a year to find out that my problem was all the wheat products I was eating for lunch at school. Wonder how many of our children have the same thing happening and don’t realize its the wheat. I can see having it be a choice but not forced. They need to eat some of these products to see that most of the wheat product are very dry and taste like cardboard. They need to eat macaroni and cheese that looks brown because of the wheat. Not appetizing. Instead of taking our opinions they need to take the time out of there busy day and visit some schools in there districts and listen to what the children have to say. We all would be happy to buy them a school lunch well they are here.

    • Harib Massu January 27, 2017 at 1:37 pm - Reply

      You hit some points right on the head, Deb. The fact that the current wheat requirements don’t take into consideration possible food allergies, or how controversial of an issue Gluten has become. I think a part of legislation also played a balancing act between the original intent of federal nutrition programs of feeding children while also utilizing the agricultural subsidies in place. Unfortunately, from the feedback I’ve received, it doesn’t seem like much of a balance to many. In my new article http://primeroedge.com/lawmakers-cut-school-lunch-program I address what Republicans have proposed to solve the problem. I’d love to hear if you actually think it’s a viable solution.

  25. DiAnna January 26, 2017 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    We need to feed the kids and stop throwing millions of dollar’s in the trash.

  26. Patty January 26, 2017 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    I agree to almost every single comment above. PLEASE bring us some relief Mr. President!!!!

  27. Dave Keck January 26, 2017 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    Our District always served fruits and veggies everyday before the HHFKA. Then the Government came in and changed everything and made it so difficult to run an effective program. We need the freedom to serve the kids the kinds of foods they want. We are not an obesity maker in anyway. What this program is, its a bunch of people sitting in cubicles writing the rules as they see fit. People who mostly have never worked in a school lunch room. So my only suggestion to fix this Challenge is to Simplify, Simplify, Simplify. I love that they want us to serve healthier food. Well, let us do it. But not under so much scrutiny and regulation. Let us serve good food and fun for all! Without all the ridiculous regulations. On that note, it would be great to spend more time in the cafeterias with the kids, but that is not possible because I’m always doing paperwork and trying to keep up on regulations.

  28. Liz Dechert January 26, 2017 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    I agree with most of the comments here especially concerning obesity and whole grains and “required choices” (an oxymoron). I am food service director/cafeteria manager for a small rural school in Texas. Therefore, I am also a dietician, media publicist and SHAC rep. I am in charge of menu planning, commodity planning, all ordering, processing free and reduced lunch applications, processing customer complaints, bookkeeping, food production records, cashiering and compliance to name just a few. I have been in the business for 32 years, public & private, with almost all of that time under government regulations.
    Never have I seen anything affect meal participation as much as the new regulations. The year they went into effect, our breakfast numbers dropped by 18% and our lunch by 44%. We went from 500 served at lunch down to 280! The vendors couldn’t keep up and, by the time they did, the damage was done. Participation was way down. Instead of pushing our kids to eat healthy, we’ve pushed them out the door.
    Our elementary is closed campus. Parents will take time off from work to bring their children pizza on pizza day, Subway on sandwich day, and McNuggets on chicken nugget day. Middle school is allowed off campus but only to the “Little Store” across the street. Students will go there and pay more for a bowl of deep fried potatoes instead of coming to the cafeteria. Or they may just get chips and coke. The high school is open campus. We ended up having to provide them with a longer lunch period so that community restaurants could accommodate the large number of students flocking to them.
    Football players used to eat in the cafeteria on game day. We lost them completely with the new regulations. They just cannot get enough nutrition from a school meal to sustain them. In all of my years here, I’ve never seen as many kids going hungry as I do now. The school nurse even stocks snacks to treat the “empty belly” aches of children who just can’t “swallow” the current regulations. School teachers are paying out of their own pockets to provide snacks in their classrooms because they know that hungry children do not/cannot concentrate on learning when their stomachs are empty.
    And this doesn’t apply to just low-income families. Those that can afford to pay for school meals still refuse to “pay for that crap”. And so their child shows up with donuts every morning – and a soda. These are only boycotting the outrageous regulations. They are obviously not that concerned with healthy food.
    Balance is definitely a big key. The more active person needs more calories. More calories needs more activity. And research seems to show the increase in obesity is due to overeating and less exercise.
    While this is true, we need also to factor in fast foods which promote unhealthy eating habits (fried/high fat content/junk food). And processed foods are a big concern as each “process” removes more nutrients. Our government pushes processing by making it available at reduced prices. A school on a tight budget has very little choice but to participate in commodity processing. Then there are the chemicals added to food these days (for visual appeal, shelf stability, etc) which completely alter the way our body absorbs or doesn’t absorb nutrients. We can fill our tummy on today’s fast & microwave foods but still be starving our body of the required nutrition.
    Diabetes is more rampant than before and, of course, that goes hand-in-hand with obesity. But forcing a child, especially a diabetic, to take fruit and/or carrots, potatoes or sweet potatoes and then limiting the amount of protein to 2 ounces and THEN sit in a classroom all afternoon is just asking for trouble.
    Personally, I love the fresh fruits and vegetables. We do not have access to locally grown products in this area so we rely on DoD. The good news is that our students will choose fresh over canned or frozen almost every time.
    Thank you for providing this forum.

  29. Carolyn Osina January 26, 2017 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    You are correct in saying it’s not the school lunches contributing to obesity. When they don’t like school food, they go after school and get a hamburger, hot dog, pizza etc. If we could cook good food the children like, they would eat in school and not be so terribly hungry after school.
    Untie our hands. We can cook nutritional food without causing obesity.

  30. Tammie Newcomer January 26, 2017 at 5:05 pm - Reply

    Over the past five years our participation has been declining. I believe we need to require less whole grains. I also believe we need to get rid of Smart Snacks, and go back to limiting the a la carte items to calorie and fat gram limits like before. Let our state department of agriculture have back more control. I am the director of a school district with 5 feeding sites with our free and reduced rate above 60%. Our high school is open campus to 11th & 12th graders, and our “Snack Bar” was keeping students from leaving for lunch. Not the case now. Our revenue has dropped dramatically. Since Smart Snack regulations began, we have been over budget.

  31. Deborah Carper January 27, 2017 at 7:49 am - Reply

    Hi I have to agree w/ so many of these comments on how the whole grain has destroy our lunches. Long before all these government changes came we had a great thing going. Our numbers were up and now we have to watch as our numbers decline every day. I have been in Food Service 34 years, being a manager for the past 22 years. Even our school nurse has commented on how many students she she’s w/ stomach issues.So much WG is not always good for those who made be suffering from IBS, Allergies & Chrons that they are on aware of. We always served them fresh fruit & veggies before this, our cheese was low fat, pepperoni on the pizza was turkey, our famous Crispito is made w/ ground turkey. Our pizza day was always the most popular day, we used 11-12 cases and now I’m lucky if they use 5-6 cases and now being a low count meal. How sad, something so good they can change the taste. My Staff and I do try everything and we have to agree w/ the kids. I love my kids here at school and care what they think of our program. I’m asked why did you change your food? Then they answer there own question because they know the answer and aren’t happy. Like many said our program now or before did not make our kids obese. We provide some with the only nutritional meal a day as many are raise on fast food or to poor to eat dissent at home. Not to mention all the extra paper work that comes w/ this. I’m here for my kids but the Politics is making it hard to want to be here and this is sad! Thank you for providing this opportunity to speak out, Deborah Carper Leo Jr/Sr HS, Leo Indiana

  32. Linda Weirich January 27, 2017 at 8:14 am - Reply

    I do believe it needs to be reworked. I love the idea of fresh fruits and vegetables and the farm to school, however it is expensive to provide that when your living the Midwest during the winter months. The sodium and calories is a huge road block because it limits some of the seasonings. For example our students used to eat broccoli with cheese but now because of the calorie limitations we serve broccoli but the students are not eating it. The students are still obese and it is not coming from the school it is from students leaving after school and going to fast foods to eat. The students need exercise along with good eating habits then you will start seeing healthier students.

  33. Anthony Mazzocchi January 30, 2017 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    We need changes, Smart snacks regulations are killing us financially. Fruits and veggies are a good thing but they need not be mandatory to count as a school lunch if a student does not want it! All the fruits and veggies that get tossed is so wrong. In turn it is putting a large financial hit on are school lunch program.If the students do not stop playing video games and not exercising nothing in are lunches will change anything.

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