While going through my school foodservice rotation, it has opened my eyes to many things that go on behind the scenes of a foodservice operation. I’ve been finding it very interesting since foodservice is something I’ve never previously learned much about. There is a lot involved in a dietitian’s day to day to make each school’s cafeteria a healthy yet appealing environment.
The recent implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is a frequently discussed topic within the school foodservice system. There are many benefits of this act such as the new standards that are set by the USDA to ensure school meals are aligning with the latest nutrition recommendations for school age children. This is especially important due to the fact that there is a large percentage of children who get the majority of their meals while at school.
There were many changes that needed to take place for school cafeterias to be in compliance with this act. These changes were the first major changes made to school meals in 15 years. They included providing more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low fat dairy options in school cafeterias. Not only is the nutrition quality of school meals improved, but foods sold in vending machines, a la carte lunch lines, and school stores have been improved as well.
While these implementations are definitely beneficial, there was some concern regarding them as well. How would students react to these changes? Would a negative reaction from students lead to a corresponding financial burden on the foodservice system? As someone who was not aware of the challenges that go on behind the scenes of a foodservice system, these potential challenges never crossed my mind.
However, even with these possible challenges, a large percentage of schools are successfully meeting the new set standards. Additionally, data show that kids are eating more fruits and vegetables, school lunch revenue is up and food waste has not increased. It has been a very interesting experience being able to see what goes on behind the scenes of a school foodservice system, and all the hard work that is done to keep it successful and enjoyed by its customers.