By: Frank Samuelson, National Business Development Manager for K-12 Schools
In 2013, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) was implemented as part of Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign. The goal was to encourage children to lead healthier lifestyles through nutritious school meals and wellness plans.
Despite its good intentions, there’s been an ongoing debate within the K-12 segment whether its pros outweigh its cons. K-12 foodservice directors and operators have faced several inadvertent challenges over the years, including food cost increases and excessive waste, as a result of the rules set forth by HHFKA.
Recently, the Department of Agriculture rolled back many of the Obama-era measures pertaining to National School Lunch and Breakfast programs and is proposing a new set of standards. Under the new policies, only half of the bread and grain servings offered must be whole grain. Before, whole-grain-rich breading was required, and that had substantial adverse effects on pasta, rice and breakfast items like biscuits and grits. In addition, the controversial Target 2 sodium restrictions have been shelved for the time being.
At Butterball, we welcome the changes because we believe they’ll help K-12 operators. The biggest benefits are that K-12 meal programs will have more flexibility and schools will be able to better run their operations. These men and women are already committed to providing healthy and delicious food, but now they can find the best way to do that for their school instead of having to follow blanket regulations that may not work for their student populations. Plus, the requirements made it tricky for operators because students didn’t care for the taste of these reformulated items, and no student should go hungry just because they don’t like what’s offered.
Many cafeteria workers are already seeing increased participation and less food waste. In an effort to fully understand the challenges that school foodservice and manufacturing industry professionals face, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and his team hosted school nutrition directors at their Washington, DC offices. He also visited schools and manufacturer locations. He found that both K-12 foodservice operators and manufacturers alike are appreciating and eagerly embracing these modifications.
Butterball can help operators be well-positioned for the current regulations and any future changes that may occur in the K-12 foodservice segment. That’s because our turkey products offer a lean source of protein that kids of all ages love and ask for. It’s up to each and every one of us to feed their growing minds, which is easier to accomplish with more flexibility. Ultimately, the most important thing is that kids have enough fuel to get them through their days. With Butterball on the menu, we can be your partner in keeping students healthy and happy.