Cape Town public schools still struggle to find food that meets nutrition guidelines

Cape Town public schools still struggle to find food that meets nutrition guidelines

Cape Girardeau Public Schools officials reported that sourcing foods that meet federal and state nutrition standards is easier than in the past two years, but remains challenging.

Two and a half years ago, due to COVID-19, the neighborhood was left without a food distributor. Often the food they could find did not meet federal nutrition guidelines. Federal authorities have waived these restrictions to make it easier for schools to feed their students.

Josh Crowell, assistant superintendent of district support services, said the government’s directive was: “Feed the children as you can feed them. Do what you can.”

However, these waivers have been reversed and schools are expected to resume serving foods that meet pre-COVID-19 nutrition guidelines. Although supply issues have improved somewhat, challenges remain

Dana McClard, food services manager for the district’s nutrition services department, said it’s been difficult to stick to the guidelines because it’s hard to find distributors carrying such products.

“We have to stick to dietary guidelines. We have to stick to a certain amount of whole grain products, sodium and calorie restrictions,” McClard said.

Cape Girardeau school officials are preparing for a federal procurement review of the 2021-2022 school year. Reviews are held every six years and Crowell said the results would be interesting.

“We’re well aware that there will be benchmarks that we haven’t completely managed to hit,” Crowell said.

McClard said another difficulty is being able to set a menu ahead of time only to find out that certain items aren’t available. But she said things are moving in a better direction than they were.

Before COVID-19, menus were published a month in advance. Now, menus come out a week at a time, and even then they aren’t set in stone because some scheduled items don’t arrive.

“I could try to put mini pancakes on the menu, but when I place an order, they won’t be available from the manufacturer,” McClard said. “Sometimes we think it’s coming on the truck, but it just doesn’t show, and you have to make adjustments with things that we have in-house or last minute things that we can add to an order. ”

Crowell praised McClard and his team for how they responded during COVID-19 and how they continued to find and provide meals for students following government nutrition guidelines.

McClard said two suppliers, US Foods and Gold Star Foods, provide food for the district.

“But even they can’t get us everything we need,” McClard said. “It’s not their fault. It’s a manufacturing issue where the products are discontinued, or they don’t have enough manpower to be able to produce the products.”

McClard said many public school districts across the country are experiencing the same difficulties. She said whole grain requirements – 80% of all bread or pasta products they serve must be whole wheat – are the hardest to meet.

“It’s the same with pizza crust. However, every time I find one that’s whole-grain, it gets ditched,” McClard said. “Sometimes I can find the whole grain products, and sometimes whole grains just aren’t available, so we have to use a regular pizza crust. You’re just doing what you have to so you can feed the kids. ”

McClard thanked everyone in her department who was able to take whatever food she could get them and make it work.

Crowell said the struggle has eased and the parents have been understanding through it all.

“It can be frustrating for parents when menus are constantly changing,” Crowell said. “Dana’s department has done a phenomenal job of letting them know as soon as possible if there are any changes. Some kids look forward to certain days and meals of the week.”

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