Some school cooks steamed at food laws

The Associated Press /

BLUE RIVER — A new federal law designed to get kids to eat better may be having unintended consequences, say Oregon cooks and their supervisors: Veggies dumped in the trash and heat-and-serve offerings replacing dishes cooked from scratch.

For cook Kelly Hiddleston at the McKenzie Elementary School in Lane County, the law means an hour of paperwork a day, at a time when budget cuts have pared the staff and left her as the only full-timer at the stove, the Eugene Register Guard reported.

As a result, starting this month, students will choose between two entrees instead of five, and there will probably be more heat-and-serve foods and fewer of Hiddleson’s creations, such as the popular “no-peekies” rolls stuffed with vegetables or ham and cheese.

The irony of the time spent on reporting nutritional details required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act isn’t lost on the superintendent of the McKenzie district, Sally Storm.

“What they’re forcing us to do is preventing us from doing what they want us to do,” Storm said.

Joyce Dougherty is the child nutrition program director at the state Department of Education, which oversees the districts’ performance and hears the grousing.

Besides paperwork, Dougherty said, some school districts don’t like the requirement that lunchroom employees put at least half a cup of fruits or vegetable on every student’s plate, even if the student doesn’t want them.

That costs the schools at both ends — for the food and for throwing it away.

“The districts know that we didn’t make these rules,” Dougherty said, “but what we’re getting is a lot of concern, especially with the larger school districts, because they’re losing a lot of money.”

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