Monday, December 19, 2011

5 Weeks in School Food Service: A Wrap-Up

Those 5 weeks sure flew by, partially I believe because of Thanksgiving break and then there was also a snow day.  Add in 3 “class days” and I really only got to spend 19 days instead of 25! But I still managed to complete all my necessary competencies and have a lot of fun at the same time.

One of the first things I had to learn was what is considered a “reimbursable meal” by the government.  Of course there are a lot of changes that will be taking place in the next couple of years but as of now they can offer 5 items (meat/meat alternate, grains, vegetable, fruit, milk) and if the student takes 3 out of 5 items, the meal is reimbursable.  The biggest qualm I had with the video I watched was that 1 egg counted as 2 meat servings. What is that all about? For breakfast, 4 items must be offered and 3 chosen for a reimbursable meal.  In this instance, a student could choose 1 hardboiled egg and a milk carton and it would be counted because according to the national school breakfast program that is equivalents to 2 meats and 1 milk (3 items). However, if the student chooses a bagel and a milk, it only counts as 2 items because a whole bagel is considered 1 grain serving.  Alright now, bagels these days are twice the size they used to be, about 6 inches in diameter and the equivalent of 3-4 slices of bread. How can that count as 1 grain serving, yet 1 egg is going to be counted as 2 meat servings? I’m so glad these rules are getting revamped.

Done venting. Kind of Winking smile

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed my rotation. But I think there is a lot that needs to be changed.  The menu rotated the same items monthly so there was a lot of variation from week to week but the options weren’t the greatest. Chicken Nuggets, Popcorn Chicken, Mini Corn Dogs, Pizza Sticks, Nachos, Hamburgers. And that’s just the elementary school! The middle and high schools have those items on the main menu as well but they also have “specialty bar” daily consisting of a rotating schedule of taco bar, country chicken bar, burger bar, deli bar……. And EVERY DAY if the kids don’t like the main entrée or the specialty bar they have the options of cheeseburger, chicken sandwich, and pizza.  Now they do have salads, yogurt, string cheese, fruit, and vegetables to offer but I did not witness many students taking these options.  The vegetables were typically frozen which nutritionally is great but they looked unappealing. Overcooked broccoli stems and asparagus bits. Even I didn’t want to eat it just by looking at it.  And the fruit was often hard to see amidst the rest of the options. Oh but don’t worry there are cookies right before the end of the line.  And they put out more chocolate milk than anything else. Heck they didn’t even have skim milk at all because the kids wouldn’t take it!

Oh the work that needs to be done in getting kids to like healthier foods……

I did have some breakthroughs.  I held a taste test for maple roasted sweet potatoes which were a hit (among the kids brave enough to actually try it).  The food service director was so pleased that he added it to the menu the next week.

I also had to do a theme meal while I was there so I took over the specialty bar and had a Mediterranean meal.


I prepared Chicken with Tzatziki


Pitas with Hummus, Tomato, & Lettuce


Cucumber-Tomato Salad


Greek Pasta Salad


and even had small servings of Baklava. We also set out grapes because I noticed that is the one fruit the kids go crazy for.  The meal went pretty well.  The kids were interested in trying something new and some were even glad to see fresh vegetables.

Besides spending time in the kitchen and serving the kiddos, I also had to do some education components.  My first week I actually had to give a presentation to the high school wrestling team! It was my first time teaching older kids and I thought it went well. You just gotta take what they throw at you and throw it back to them.  Don’t let them walk all over you, otherwise you’ll get nowhere in presenting the information.  Later in my rotation I also gave a lesson on MyPlate to a 3rd grade class.  That was a lot of fun – they were so smart!  We made lists of foods to go in each group and they came up with some amazing ones like artichoke and pomegranate. I had no idea 3rd graders knew what those were!  I also brought some food for them to make their own trail mix with chex, sunflower seeds, and raisins.

So of course there was more but those were the major projects.  When I was learning about food service in school, I was so bored and it was my least favorite.  When applying for internships, I thought that food service would be the worst out of the the three areas (food service, community, and clinical).  However, now that I’ve finished both food service rotations (hospital and school) and ABSOLUTELY LOVED both of them, I know that it’s not as bad as I once thought it was.  In fact, I could totally see myself as a school food service director one day!  Of course I’ll be that kick-butt one that strives to give the students healthier options. Smile

I’ve got a pretty special rotation going on this week too which I’ll fill you in on later. Then it’s back home for a week, first time since I started my internship in August!

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