Thursday, July 06, 2017

District Doesn't Seem Interested in Nutritional Improvements

As you may recall, the district hired a consultant group to do a review of Nutrition Services.  The report had a lot of good things to say especially about the staff but offer numerous suggestions for improvements.  The district and Board seemed to take that report and put it on a shelf. 

It's unclear why they paid the money for it and are largely ignoring its work.

One program that was begun in the Fall of 2015 (just before the Prismatic staff came through and which they gave high praise) was the “Pilot Program at NOVA High School”. The pilot has now been left as just that.

The program is supported by both students/staff and nutrition staff.  But even though the program doubled student participation, staff is being told it didn't meet enough benchmarks.

It's hard to understand ignoring the report.

SPS Board Student Wellness Policy (3405) states:
Students have equitable access to healthy foods and potable water throughout the school day—both through reimbursable school meals and other foods available throughout the school campus that meet or exceed Federal and state nutrition standards; Students are given adequate time to obtain and consume meals in an environment that encourages healthy eating...
It's hard to understand not supporting Nova's program that IS succeeding in getting more students into the cafeteria.

It's hard to fault a department - Nutrition Services - if when equipment breaks, it's not fixed in a timely manner.  When staff isn't given proper training.

SPS is not adhering to the updated USDA procurement rules for child nutrition programs that became effective October, 2015. 

Even though district enrollment has grown, the numbers of free/reduced lunch students has been fairly steady (between 18-21,000.)  participation in school meals has steadily dropped especially for full-pay students from 27% in 2001-02 to 13% for 2015-16.  F/RL participation appears to have gone from about 70% down to 61%.

The bottom line is there appear to be many students who are F/RL who are not eating in the cafeteria.  As we have discussed in the past, some of that is about long wait times to access food and short lunch times to then eat it. 

How many students in this district are not eating properly because the district has put Nutrition Services at near the bottom of the line of basic priorities when we all know the huge effect proper nutrition has on growing students who need to be able to concentrate in class?

Where's the racial equity lens on this issue?  

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Regarding Nova's program, it was wildly successful in terms of both student and staff engagement until Chef Rachel took a promotion in April and moved next door to Garfield. After Chef Rachel left, the new lunchroom staff sent over to Nova tanked the program, moving away from any sort of fresh cooked food. I'm not sure whether the district couldn't find another lunch person who was willing to do more than just reheat frozen food or whether they wanted to deliberately undermine the program. I do know that it was demoralizing and upsetting to the Nova community. As a teacher there, I went from buying lunch at school nearly every day to bringing lunch every day. Students and staff frequently didn't have any vegetarian options, and everything just reverted to the same old reheated junk. We miss Chef Rachel, who's incredibly talented and worked so hard to provide healthy and delicious food on a tight budget. She also engaged with students, giving them input and voice in what the lunch program would look like.

Dave said...

What the District aministration did was advertise to fill the position at two hours less per day than Rachel was assigned.

Difficult to engage much of anything than a can or box of something with that sort of rush thru the day. Rachel worked hard to grow the program. Tough to do with 2 hrs a day less.

Dave said...

"administration". Sorry for the typo.

Jet City mom said...

The nutrition program at Nova was invaluable.
It should be replicated, not eliminated.

Anonymous said...

Long lines in severely overcrowded schools and not enough time to eat has been my student's experience. So has never gotten lunch at school. It is even hard to have enough time bringing his lunch. It is definitely a really huge equity issue that is being ignored in our overcrowded schools. I feel really sorry for F&R lunch kids who need to wait in line and likely have zero time to eat. Thanks for this post and I really hope people bring it up to the district.
-BK

Melissa Westbrook said...

BK, you make a good point. Why is equity the biggest reasoning for some issues and not others? As I told the Board at the next-to-the-last Board meeting, you can't be using the equity lens as a hammer sometimes and a smokescreen other times.

Dave said...

Please read the Prismatic study. Melissa has it. Obviously SSD policy makers have read it but have responded in the usual fashion.

Anonymous said...

They need to study the problem some more.Gotta pay for those studies, so buy the cheapest food they can get.This state makes great apple juice. Why are our students drinking apple juice from China?
Eat Local

Chef Rachel said...

Hi all, this is Chef Rachel. I came to the school system for the purpose of having an actual retirement, and making the food palatable, local and fresh as possible! The school system was the perfect move IMO, for a chef that doesn't want to run the lines until they die. Dream job for someone who wants to make a difference and use my lives experience to make a change.

I love NOVA (except for all the stairs, I have an annoying ankle that hates me.) I love everything about it, so when I was called two years ago about opening the program there, I saw an opportunity. That is my clan, I knew we would mesh properly.

I talked to students and staff about a chance to do something amazing, actually tailoring the menu to the school. Every school is different, yano?

So we came up with the plan to do a self serve, build your own burrito option. Vegan or not. It was brilliant. It WORKED there. It would not work at other schools, that was my main point.

Yes, I worked with equipment issues. I hurt myself, and pushed myself to make this GO. My students, my customers come first for me. I had initial support and feel it was ignored after a bit. I did ask to place a baked potato bar on the other side, as those two items would rock it at that school (this would NEVER fly at Garfield, I want a build your own sandwich bar over there, that would be the thing there!) but never heard back. I mean, potatoes...cheap, easily sourced, did I mention cheap? Kind of like beans and rice?? I know, right?

OK, fast forward. I did move to Garfield. As much as I love NOVA, I know the difference I can make over there with my actual concern over the food and the fact that I like to talk with my customers and see what they like, and would like to see. What would make them actually want to bear the horror of the lack of time (one lunch at a school of closing in on 2000 enrolled, lunch is at 12:45?!!?) and come in.

I have made rather of bit of headway on that issue (I can't change the ridiculous time or chances to get lunch, many there go hungry because of this) and feel confident we can help get more in for lunch (breakfast foods still need a bit of a boost in quality.)

Then I was dismayed, I had thought I left that program in hands that would do what we had going. That stopped. No spice. No fresh veg in the bean mix. No careful consideration that the program has a large contingent of Vegetarian/Vegan clients.

It spiraled. I was crushed. The hours proposed, and listed...that told me the pilot was dead in the water.

I am sorry, I feel to blame in many ways as I thought it was going to be fine and I was going to move into a much larger space to attempt to rectify the abundance of 'lunch shaming' and all that, as anyone, F/R or Full Pay was just as likely to come through my line. A larger base of customers to show school lunch can be amazing.

I hope we can fix this, I am very proud of what we accomplished in the short, almost two years I spent at that beautiful school.

And Anon, about that juice? Swedish stopped serving it...my wife asked why they where serving her sugar water from China a few years ago ;) Step up, say things! WE will never get anything done by staying silent!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Chef Rachel, you sound like such an amazing, caring person. You have no blame in why things changed at Nova. Your words ring true and it's good to hear an on-the-ground account of lunchtimes at different schools.

Joe Wolf said...

Wow. Thank you!!