Rotating last month through a room filled with vendors at a school food conference, Glendale Community College nutrition instructor Sona Donayan was bombarded with information about packaging, delivery and pricing.
Nutrition facts were harder to come by.
“They give a lot of incentives, freebies, samples, good prices for highly processed, unhealthy foods,” Donayan said. “[Cafeteria] workers don’t really need to develop any skills if everything delivered is prepackaged and frozen and all you need to do is throw it in the oven, heat it up and call it a meal. A lot of that goes on.”
Properly educated and trained food handlers are necessary to ensure school-provided meals meet the nutritional standards of the U.S. Department of Agriculture — required in order for districts to be reimbursed for free and reduced-cost meals — while also appealing to children, she said.