#blessthelunchladies – JoAnne Robinett, SNS
Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the amount of attention being given to school lunch! The first lady put school meals at the top of her agenda. In the last year school meals have repeatedly been featured on the national television – on the evening news and on the morning news/lifestyle programs; also in the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune, The Huffington Post, and USA Today – just to name the first few that came up from my internet search engine. Then there is social media – twitter, Facebook, reddit, and blogs, which have exploded with pictures of school lunches – displaying the good, the bad, and the ugly. The recent media circus revolves around the following:
- USDA has changed regulations thus putting more fruits and vegetables on the trays, some students subsequently put more fruits and vegetables in the trash.
- Some parents failed to send money to pay for the meals (lunch ladies fed them anyway while charging meals to the student’s account) resulting in debt so large the “best” consequence was to withhold meals.
- Calorie counts for meals have been limited – as have sodium levels. White bread items have been totally eliminated – not just at meals, but for sale anywhere in a school building. Some students complain about taste and texture of the new food items.
- New rules about foods that programs sell in addition to meals now restrict the choices students have available for purchase to supplement a meal if they are still hungry. Not only has this resulted in unhappy customers, it is reducing the income of these self-supporting meal operations.
- Losses of customers and income have caused a few schools to drop off of the national school lunch program. These schools still feed the students, they just do not have to follow federal guidelines on what can or cannot be served. Other schools are realizing that employees must be laid off because expenses now exceed revenue.
Today I am thinking, not of the state of school lunch – not the program in general, nor specific to a school building- rather, I am thinking of the wonderful people who took a job in service to the school and the community to simply help serve lunch to students. Most I think embrace the L.L. Bean philosophy, “Above all, we wish to avoid having a dissatisfied customer. We consider our customers a part of our organization.” The last few years have been hard on those who chose school food service. They have seen dissatisfied customers, and unhappy supervisors. They have been caught in the crossfire of a war they did not sign up to fight. They have been insulted and have had their feeling hurt. And yet, when I visited schools I see them in there working insanely fast to accomplish the task before them, nourishing student bodies – and they are still smiling at those students. #blessthelunchladies #blessthelunchladies – JoAnne Robinett, SNS AMERICASMEAL@YAHOO.COM