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Commodities and school food service

I work in school food service everyday. I see how these new regulations directly affect our school service programs in fifteen different districts. We always served healthy food long before this new initiative. Our staff is well-trained, which was a large investment. They made homemade soups and salads every day. Since you can't do nutrition in the moment, this has come to an end. Which is a waste of leftovers and resources. Homemade soups and salads are great for children! And allow us to make more homemade food on a very tight budget! Have you ever tried to feed a high school student a full hot meal with a milk for an average price of $2? Oh, and pay your staff a livable wage and keep the lights on?

We really need our government's attention at the beginning of the food chain for our children! We need to start in Washington and revamp our whole commodity system and the way our government financially assists the school food service system. I would like to propose a voucher system similar to our country's WIC program. This would eliminate all the farm-lobby manipulation of the system. This would also eliminate the environmental impact of trucking and storing all the commodities. Image the high fuel cost, pollution and other trucking costs to haul just these items! A lot of these commodities are canned or frozen, as we very seldomly receive fresh and healthy commodities! With vouchers sent right to the food sevice directors, they could order what they need when when they need it. Also eliminating our having to put away hundreds of pounds of canned and frozen foods away at the same time, which is very hard work and makes storage a huge problem, overloading our freezers and storerooms. Food service distributing companies also make us place a minimum order for more items to get our commodity orders sent to us. We could use food vouchers for fresh produce and meats, possibly working into the local farm market rather than supporting the larger farms that benefit way too much from our schools. Our children's food supply should not be used to support large irresponsible farming practices that destroy their (children's) future environment. This is an obsolete system used in the past to support an unhealthy food system. We didn't just start cooking unhealthy foods we started by receiving them from the government.

You cannot fix a system that is broken from the end of it! You need to start at the beginning and work your way out to the schools. I have never meet a school food service worker or FSD whose mission was to serve bad or unhealthy food. I'm a chef and we all strive to make our lunches colorful and delicious every day! Now let's fix this system, by getting our kids food out of the farm lobbyists' pockets by letting our local directors choose the healthy and fresh options. They could order if we had vouchers. Why does our food have to take a trip around the country before we receive it ? Also, please save all our backs, aging freezers, storage space and wasted time waiting for the commodities to come. I don't think the public knows schools have to order all commodity items months or a school-year ahead of time. We are only able to receive the options the government puts on a list. We also are a business and have to inventory all this monthly, so we waste time counting all this frozen and canned food, as well as rotating it. A school food service director has much more paperwork than a restaurant owner has. The mountain of paperwork they do has also increased. This year we have some of last year's commodities shelved because they don't fit the new regulations. So many schools have items we can't put out, such as peanut butter, sitting on back shelves. Peanut butter is a high-fat item they often give us. Why don't we donate it or sell it, you think to yourself? Well, there are laws about that, but it would be nice to get our shipping costs back! Yes we pay for the shipping of these commodities! Why PB?… with all the nut allergies and sky-high fat content, is this product pushed by the government… um, could it be lobbyists? LOL!

Thank you for listening to the truth! Here's to healthy lunches that make business sense!

Shari Jarett

Rochester, MN

Jan 31 2013 - 3:11pm

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