The National School Lunch Act is responsible for feeding children from grades K-12 and, since it has been enacted in 1946, there have been many amendments. Among re-authorization of the program, new legislation, the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, requires school meals to follow the most recent Dietary Guidelines released in 2010. Major changes include offering low fat or skim milk, gradually converting grains to be 100% whole grain-rich, and setting limits to calorie and sodium intake just to name a few.
The new guidelines is a result of the works of First Lady Michelle Obama and the USDA. Creating a menu with calorie and nutrient restrictions is challenging enough – if you haven’t yet, you will come across the time, stress, frustration, ingenuity, etc., required to pull off such a mental feat. Now, taking into account the equipment available, budget, and staff training, while appealing to the children’s appetite, adds to the level of difficulty.
Currently, Kristin Hilleman, Director of Food Services in Fullerton, is working on such a task. Kristin studied Health Science and Nutrition, has vast experience in food service, and has updated operations at the district to allow for a more efficient program. I’d like to thank Kristin for taking the time to answer questions about the current state of the program and the career possibilities for future graduates in the field.
The following interview was contributed by Kirstin Hilleman, Director of Food Services, and Cal Poly Pomona Dietetic Students Crystal Ortiz and Osvaldo Campos:
1. Are Registered Dietitians (RD) employed within the National School Lunch Program?
Yes, there are RD’s employed by School Districts in many facets of School Food Service operations. Some Districts employee RD’s strictly for menu planning, nutrient analysis and overall meal pattern compliance of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP). Other Districts require the RD credentials for their Food Service Program Director.
There are also great opportunities in School Food Service for dietetic students who do not have the RD credentials (I am one of those people). A degree in Nutrition and Dietetics with some knowledge of business and food service is the “norm” in most School Food Service supervisory, management and director level job descriptions and requirements.
When looking for careers in School Food Service the best place to start is http://www.edjoin.org.
2. How can the RD or dietetic student utilize the program?
The program is not for an RD or dietetic student to utilize per say. It is a program to build a career on and to do that one needs to become knowledgeable about NSLP and SBP. Research the programs and the impact of the 2010 Health Hunger Free Kids Act on the program; this is a great time to get involved in this career path.
3. What is your opinion of the program?
The program is wonderful in the same number of ways as it is convoluted. I think School Food Service or Child Nutrition is an extremely important and most of the time overlooked aspect of our society and a child’s daily life. For some kids the meals they receive at school through the SBP and NSLP are the only meals they may eat during the day.
There are many opportunities for new comers in the School Food Service word and I encourage anyone with the slightest bit of interest to check out the following websites to get more acquainted:
• National Food Service Management Institute: http://www.nfsmi.org/Default.aspx
• School Nutrition Association: http://www.schoolnutrition.org/
• CA School Nutrition Association: http://www.calsna.org/
4. What’s going on now with the program?
The NSLP and SBP have seen drastic changes over the last 2 years and will continue to see changes over the next 10 years as the methodical implementation of the Health Hunger Free Kids Act takes effect.
In the state of California, School Districts are looking at their Food Service Departments in a new light due to the Governor’s new funding model, Local Control Funding Formula. In a nutshell a School District receives more funding per student based on the Districts total number of students on the NSLP and SBP.
As with any industry we are starting to see a wave of retirements in our School Food Service world. Directors, Assistant Directors, Supervisors, and Nutrition Specialist positions are starting to pop us more and more as those more seasoned in the business decide they are ready to pass on the torch.