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It's Elementary | Inside the SCV School Food Services Agency Central Kitchen

Uploaded 03/17/2014

Inside the SCV School Food Services Agency Central Kitchen

Article by Allison Pari, KHTS

Since 1989, the Santa Clarita Valley Food Services Agency has been providing lunches to the valley’s school districts, and Food Services Director Jane Crawford said that their goal has always been to put quality lunches on students’ trays.

The FSA serves schools in the Newhall, Sulphur Springs, Castaic Union and Saugus Union School Districts, for a total of 11,500 lunches each day.

In recent years, the school lunch industry has faced new challenges, Crawford said, specifically because of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was passed in 2010.

There are now stricter regulations on what can be served to children.

“Under the new science-based standards, school meals are ‘right-sized’ and reflect the appropriate balance between food groups,” according to a USDA summary. “Based on their age, students are getting the recommended portions. In addition to lower-fat dairy and leaner proteins, the new school meals offer more fruits and vegetables at lunch–roughly double compared to the previous standards. Whole grains are also increased substantially.”

The biggest struggle with these new regulations is getting students to eat required foods that they may not enjoy, Crawford said.

“You’re… transitioning from children being able to choose which fruit and vegetable they would like, and now their mandated to take a certain vegetable or fruit,” she said. “…Kids don’t like to be mandated to eat vegetables, not even at the dinner table.”

Crawford also believes that some of the federally mandated requirements are not always feasible or necessary, she said.

For example, according to the current law, 100 percent of the breads and bread products that schools serve must be whole grain by July 1.

Currently, schools are required to serve 50 percent whole grains.

While the FSA does serve a large percentage of whole grain foods, not everything is better with whole grains, Crawford said.

“Anything breaded, or pasta–kids don’t like it.” she said.

But whether or not children like the food being served is only one side of the issue. The FSA also wants to make sure that parents think the meals are worth paying for.

“I think the misunderstanding is that people believe that school lunch is unhealthy, and that isn’t correct,” Crawford said.

As part of a USC class that she is taking, Crawford has created an online survey for parents, where they can comment on whether they choose to have their children eat lunch at school and any changes they would like to see.

Crawford wanted to clarify some misconceptions that parents might have about school lunch programs.

Even before the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed, there always were nutritional regulations that the FSA had to follow.

“We would take our menu and analyze it for it’s nutritional value, and we would have to meet certain standards through USDA,” Crawford said.

She also pointed out that schools in California have easier access to locally grown fruits and vegetables than some other places in the country.

The FSA buys their produce from Ventura, Fresno and Bakersfield.

And whether or not a child receives pre-packaged food at lunch is simply based on the equipment at each school kitchen.

The FSA central kitchen buys its food in bulk and then packages the meals based on which school they will be sent to. No food arrives at the central kitchen pre-packaged, Crawford said.

Ultimately, the goal is to create nutritious meals that appeal to the wide range of ages and opinions throughout SCV schools.

“There’s a lot of taste development that takes place between the time you’re in kindergarten and the time you’re in eighth grade,” Crawford said.

“The food services directors across California are advocates for child nutrition,” she said, “and what we try and do is bring in items that children like, and look at the recipes and see how we can best create those… and still be palatable for a child.”

For more information about the Food Services Agency, click here. Take Crawford’s survey, here.

©2013 SCVTV
45 Comments for It's Elementary: Inside the SCV School Food Services Agency Central Kitchen
  1. Fenella if you could just post the event for this evening on your page that would be great.

  2. I’m sure everyone that works there is doing their best. The problem
    is our “best” is just not good enough. I think the high salt might come from the pepperoni on the pizza as well. Are my kids the only ones who will not eat hot dogs with nitrates and also refuse pepperoni pizza? So disgusting that it is even an option. If it must be pizza why not veggie pizza? Why are we stifling the palates of our kids?

  3. Renee Choi Renee Choi says:

    I guess, you just have to work in the kitchen and see for yourselves.

  4. Renee Choi Renee Choi says:

    I guess, you just have to work in the kitchen and see for yourselves.

  5. Nothing has added sugar like the juice cartons and the slushies at the red cart. Also most kids that come through the line has fresh fruits and veggies on their plate that they have chosen themselves. For some kids school might be the only place they get to eat fruits and veggies . The salad bar is beautiful ! Kids love it ! And we keep it very clean and stocked fresh everyday and throughout the day! It’s a hard job but I enjoy serving the kids . It’s sad that everyone is bagging on the school lunches , when they have come such a long way . When I started working there 6 months ago I was blown away with all the food ! I would recommend it . If anyone reads this don’t be afraid of school lunches for your kids .

  6. Nothing has added sugar like the juice cartons and the slushies at the red cart. Also most kids that come through the line has fresh fruits and veggies on their plate that they have chosen themselves. For some kids school might be the only place they get to eat fruits and veggies . The salad bar is beautiful ! Kids love it ! And we keep it very clean and stocked fresh everyday and throughout the day! It’s a hard job but I enjoy serving the kids . It’s sad that everyone is bagging on the school lunches , when they have come such a long way . When I started working there 6 months ago I was blown away with all the food ! I would recommend it . If anyone reads this don’t be afraid of school lunches for your kids .

  7. Renee Choi Renee Choi says:

    You are right, Jane is awesome. I respect her and the others who are trying to do their best with the portion sizes and regulated requirements. As far as bulling is concerned, I was talking about the staff bulling the lunch ladies. Not all lunch ladies are mean or nasty. We are trying to help the kids choose healthy meals. There is nothing the Central Kitchen can do as far as making food from scratch because of funding. It all boils down to the Government wanting to support war, rather than our future…our children. Basically, it’s all about the money.

  8. Renee Choi Renee Choi says:

    You are right, Jane is awesome. I respect her and the others who are trying to do their best with the portion sizes and regulated requirements. As far as bulling is concerned, I was talking about the staff bulling the lunch ladies. Not all lunch ladies are mean or nasty. We are trying to help the kids choose healthy meals. There is nothing the Central Kitchen can do as far as making food from scratch because of funding. It all boils down to the Government wanting to support war, rather than our future…our children. Basically, it’s all about the money.

  9. Chef Dawn Chef Dawn says:

    I am happy to give anyone a tour. PM me if you are interested.

  10. Chef Dawn Chef Dawn says:

    I am happy to give anyone a tour. PM me if you are interested.

  11. Chef Dawn Chef Dawn says:

    I am not putting down the NSLP. But not offering it has given us the flexibility to offer different meals. And we have found that the kids love it.

  12. Chef Dawn Chef Dawn says:

    I am not putting down the NSLP. But not offering it has given us the flexibility to offer different meals. And we have found that the kids love it.

  13. Chef Dawn Chef Dawn says:

    PleAse stop by our school. Our food is so good that the staff eats it too. But we can’t participate with the NSLP and can make what we want when we want. The freedom has allowed us to get back to the basics. Our meatballs are our most popular dish made with zucchini, onions, cauliflower and ground turkey. We make homemade tomato sauce also with tons of veggies. We can top those meatballs with homemade lemon sauce for Greek meatballs, tomato sauce for Italians and even a homemade creamy sauce for Swedish. The kids adore them.

    • Chef Dawn how much do the meals cost at your school? I agree, if we offer kids only healthy choices, they will eat them. If they choose to not eat the main entree then they can fill up on salad and veggies. Your Greek meatballs sound delicious!

  14. Chef Dawn Chef Dawn says:

    PleAse stop by our school. Our food is so good that the staff eats it too. But we can’t participate with the NSLP and can make what we want when we want. The freedom has allowed us to get back to the basics. Our meatballs are our most popular dish made with zucchini, onions, cauliflower and ground turkey. We make homemade tomato sauce also with tons of veggies. We can top those meatballs with homemade lemon sauce for Greek meatballs, tomato sauce for Italians and even a homemade creamy sauce for Swedish. The kids adore them.

  15. Chef Dawn Chef Dawn says:

    I hope my comments are not taken as being a bully. I know a lot about the requirements of the NSLP and know several food service directors who feel like they are doing the best they possibly can given all the requirements. Jane Crawford is awesome. I honestly wish the Feds would allow schools to cook from scratch on everything but because the portion sizes and nutritional requirements are so extensive, there is not enough money to pay chefs to make most meals from scratch and meet all the requirements. FYI, the pizza sauce when made from scratch is not a high contributor of salt … It’s the cheese. Lots of salt in cheese.

  16. Chef Dawn Chef Dawn says:

    I hope my comments are not taken as being a bully. I know a lot about the requirements of the NSLP and know several food service directors who feel like they are doing the best they possibly can given all the requirements. Jane Crawford is awesome. I honestly wish the Feds would allow schools to cook from scratch on everything but because the portion sizes and nutritional requirements are so extensive, there is not enough money to pay chefs to make most meals from scratch and meet all the requirements. FYI, the pizza sauce when made from scratch is not a high contributor of salt … It’s the cheese. Lots of salt in cheese.

  17. My son started a petition regarding the food and their needing to be a change and his voice was heard loud and clear. Tomorrow evening at the SCV Boys & Girls Newhall at 7pm the SCV Food Services will be coming to the club to hear the voices of the children. If you have children that are as upset as mine are regarding the food. Please bring them to be apart of an open forum where there voices will be heard.

  18. So these are the a**holes making me eat all that crappy food while growing up…I despise you

  19. I agree with Renee Choi! You could not have said it better!!!!!!! Who are the adults here? Kids or parents!!!!!!

  20. Renee Choi Renee Choi says:

    I work for the Food Service Agency. Maybe you need to get your facts straight about the food we serve. It is highly regulated and is not height in sodium and saturated fat. In fact, there in no extra salt added in anything. And maybe those kids needs better parenting if they are calling people names. Bully doesn’t fall far from the tree. Please educate yourself.

    • Renee Choi I have checked my facts, I looked up the data on the nutrition guide, which is not even necessary. Just look at the menu, pizza served EVERY day! The other options are just as bad, cheeseburgers, corn dogs, chicken nuggets, it’s basically fast food. The pepperoni pizza has 653 mg of sodium, over half the recommended amount for a child’s daily allowance. It also has 10.11 gr of fat, with half of that being saturated, which is over 1/4 of the daily sat fat allowance for a child. Wow, I even just compared the school cheeseburger to a kids cheeseburger at McDonalds, and can’t believe it, but the McDonalds is healthier! School cheeseburger, 366 cal, 20.9gr of fat, 10gr of sat fat, 1053mg sodium. McDonalds cheeseburger 300 cal, 12gr of fat, 6gr of sat fat, 680mg sodium. I understand you follow the guidelines, but maybe the guidelines need to be changed!

    • Renee Choi Renee Choi says:

      The lunches are not nutritionally worthless. Look, any pizza is going to have a lot of sodium. It’s in the sauce. We are trying feed thousands of kids per day as healthy as we can. No one says it’s perfect, but there is a salad bar with 5-10 choices of fruit and veggies to choose from every day. Also, The kids won’t eat the more healthy item offered daily. They don’t have to take the pizza, but choose to because that’s what they have learned at home. The guideline have changed dramatically and Michelle Obama has stepped in to ensure healthier lunches for all kids. Yes, even the free and reduced kids get whole grain.

    • Well of course kids are going to pick the fast food choice if offered, why not only offer healthy options, so no matter what they choose it’s going to be healthy. My kids eat healthy at home, but they will pick the pizza or burger if offered to them. If the school cannot afford to only offer healthy choices, then should be honest about what they are offering, not tell parents they offer healthy balanced meals. I think the veggie/salad bar is a great idea, I just wish they offered healthy entrees too.

    • Well of course kids are going to pick the fast food choice if offered, why not only offer healthy options, so no matter what they choose it’s going to be healthy. My kids eat healthy at home, but they will pick the pizza or burger if offered to them. If the school cannot afford to only offer healthy choices, then should be honest about what they are offering, not tell parents they offer healthy balanced meals. I think the veggie/salad bar is a great idea, I just wish they offered healthy entrees too.

  21. Chef Dawn Chef Dawn says:

    No packaged burritos or grilled cheese for our school.

  22. Chef Dawn Chef Dawn says:

    To senators and congress people with the no salt to see if they could even stomach it.

  23. Chef Dawn Chef Dawn says:

    The district is just doing what the federal government mandates they do. Its not the school districts that are choosing. The government is eliminating salt from any item that it doesn’t occur naturally. What a shame. Because of the feds rules, they cut the fat in foods. So now they have to use low cal margarine. Can you actually tell me that real butter is worse than margarine (low fat margarine). I feel bad for the districts because their hands are tied. I think they need to serve the food

  24. Chef Dawn Chef Dawn says:

    From a school that does not accept Federal Funds it is possible to make nutritious food that kids like.

  25. If you are trusting USDA guidelines to feed your kids you are in for a huge wake up call. School food and a lot of food in our country is pure junk. We will continue to bring our own food from home.

  26. Wait, what? What am I missing? We went from nutritionally unsatisfactory food to staff that call kids names, dig up dirt and use foul language with students???
    Do tell!!!

  27. Do I hv to put a hidden camera on my g.kids to protect them in school????

  28. No doubt. It really angers me that these lunches are nutritionally worthless. Where exactly is all the $$$ ? This state brings in quite a lg amount from our tax monies, the lottery, etc. They feed them garbage and then want the kids to excel in the classroom? Paaaa leeeze. Re: digging up dirt and foul language to students all I can say is SAD and PATHETIC.

    • Renee Choi Renee Choi says:

      The food is NOT nutritionally worthless. or garbage. You are saying that salad, apples, strawberries, watermelon, carrots, hicima, green beans, corn, garbanzo bean, black beans are of no nutritional value? The kids are only allowed a certian amount of fat and sodium with thier main course, the rest is wholesome, nutritional and good for them.

  29. I’m a lunch lady for this company ! Although I’m not permanent yet I really enjoy serving children. I usually go to a couple of different schools a week. School Food has come a long way as far as nutrition . the schools salad bars are huge with lots of fresh fruits and veggies ! We have such strict guidelines about freshness ! There are usually 5-6 entrees to choose from. I wouldn’t worry at all about your kid buying lunch at school in Santa Clarita .

  30. Try doing some research.. Pavy’s Pizza, SCV Food Service and Pavys Non-profit… Aside from horrible food and staffs that calls kids names. You might find some dirt.

  31. Tyler Steiner Lil grandma

  32. The lunches served at schools are appalling, they are high in saturated fats and sodium, not to mention full of prevatives! Just read the nutrition guide on their website. Just because they serve corn dogs or pizza with a side of carrots, it does not make it a healthy balanced meal. I refuse to let my kids eat at the cafeteria. If that is the only food the schools can afford, then they should at least be honest about the quality and healthfulness of it!

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