By Patricia L. Fitzgerald, Editor 2013-10-02 03:10:50
This month marks my 19th anniversary at SNA. It’s been exciting to witness changes in school nutrition over the years. I truly marvel at ways that technology has changed this business—and our personal lives. Veterans of longer standing may (or may not) be impressed by the resurrection of scratch-prep meals or farm-to-school programs, but I am routinely amazed at how these have been integrated in today’s operations. The spread of ethnic cuisine staples beyond expected pockets of urban influence is another major change. Similarly, it’s staggering to reflect on the increased availability of “unusual” fruits (such as mango, kiwi), vegetables (jicama, kale) and grains (quinoa, bulgur). Of course, there’s a lot that hasn’t changed, too. There are many positive hallmarks of school nutrition that will last long after my tenure ends. This includes the warm, nurturing commitment of each one of you who make this a career; the creative, can-do spirit you exhibit in the face of ongoing challenges; and the incredible diversity of programs. Still, there is one thing that persists that I find troubling. It drives me crazy that we haven’t moved the meter more effectively and enduringly when it comes to public misperceptions about school meals. I know this is immensely frustrating for you, too. Few know better than your SNA Headquarters team the many challenges you face and overcome every day. But, the hard truth is that when it comes to changing negative attitudes, frankly, you need to do more. Too often you are, as they say in politics, ceding control of the message. For every parent blog that insists that cafeterias serve only unhealthy crap, you need to be countering their misinformation with your truth, through a Facebook page, a newspaper column, a blog of your own or any other soapbox you can find. And it’s not enough to react when school meals are attacked—you must get out ahead and be relentless in advocating for all that you do and how well you do it. You need to be taking and sharing photos of colorful trays of healthy foods. You need to own your expertise and refuse to be diminished or dismissed as “just a” cook, cashier, lunch lady at your school. You need to put aside your humility and nominate yourself and your colleagues for local, state and national awards—and then promote the heck out of the honors and achievements that you have earned. It’s a tough battle that probably will never end. But I believe that you can—and must—do more to change perceptions. It’s a critical priority, because the proliferation of negative stereotypes and misinformation can affect everything you want to accomplish. Let’s keep working harder together to get that message across to a wider audience.
Published by School Nutrition Association. View All Articles.
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