Making a Difference… Fruit & Vegetables Matter

Encouraging students to eat more fruits & vegetables. A healthy eating environment teaches children good nutrition and the elements of a proper diet, which can have positive effects on children’s eating habits and physical well being throughout life. USDA research indicates that children who participate in the National School Lunch Program have superior nutritional intakes compared to those who bring lunch from home or otherwise do not participate.  An excellent way to boost the nutritive value, taste and eye appeal of school meals is to serve more fruits and vegetables in a variety of creative and appetizing ways. Opaa! would like to partner with our schools to offer multiple fruit and vegetable choices in an effort to increase student consumption of these nutrient rich foods.

Benefits of providing multiple fruit and vegetable choices include:

  • Students get the nutrients they need for success in the classroom
  • Fewer students may bring their lunch, so more kids eat school meals
  • Students can practice nutrition lessons learned in the classroom
  • Children build life skills in choosing what foods they will eat
  • Students eat more fruits and veggies because they pick what they like
  • Students get the nutrients they need because they eat foods they pick
  • More choices can be offered on the school menu
  • Less food is thrown away

Providing multiple choices of fruits and vegetables is easy using the
offer vs. serve option for your meal service. If you are interested in
learning more about implementing these options in your school, contact
your Director of Nutrition Services.

In a tough economic climate when many businesses are struggling, the hard work of our staff, loyalty and dedication to our mission have made all of us proud. We welcomed several new school districts to the Opaa! family this year, and we have enhanced a number of programs aimed at improving the employee experience including enhanced training, improved incentive programs, and updated communication tools. One new initiative I'm really excited to announce is Opaa.TV-a web-based video channel that is filled with short videos from our clients, parents, students, and team members. Opaa.TV is a great new way to show others just what makes us special...check it out at

This past school year has included several advancements in our child nutrition program, including increased participation levels, improved client financial performance and an inspired assortment of nutritional programs. We are proud to support the USDA's HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) initiative, which promotes healthier school environments, and our school menus now offer an even wider array of fruits, vegetables and whole grain options.

We are also excited to be a leader in the Farm to School program, partnering with local growers to provide farm-fresh fruits and vegetables to our students. Due to the overwhelming success of last year's pilot program, Missouri-grown apples have been served during the fall of the 2010 to ALL Opaa! students. We will continue to seek out additional opportunities to provide our districts with farm-fresh products.

Thank you for helping "Make Their Day."

Kevin Short
Opaa! Food Management, Inc.

Opaa!'s comment submitted March 31, 2011.

Ms. Julie Brewer
Policy and Program Development Branch Chief
Child Nutrition Division
Food and Nutrition Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
3101 Park Center Drive, Room 640
Alexandria, Virginia 22302-1594

Opaa! Comments on New Rules of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act 2010

Dear Ms. Brewer:

At Opaa! Food Management, we strive to provide a healthy environment for the students we serve and we pride ourselves on the nutritious, well balanced meals served through our school breakfast and lunch programs. The proposed rules for meal patterns and nutritional requirements of the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs aim to improve student health. We agree with the admirable goal of reducing childhood obesity. As a nutrition management company, we embrace the opportunity to be a partner in providing nutritious school meals to Missouri students.

Opaa! Food Management has introduced the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) meal pattern into our elementary school meals to provide more nutrient rich foods, more whole grains and a variety of fruits for our students. We strongly support: the new guidelines for reduced sodium; the new requirements for nutrient rich vegetables; the requirements for reduced fat milk; and the requirement for maximum calorie levels.

These proposed standards are ambitious but reasonable and will benefit our students. Other aspects of the proposed rule, however, are unworkable. Specifically, we are concerned that the new regulations will: 1. Limit participation in the school lunch program, 2. Impose new cost burdens on school districts and 3. Lead to increased waste.

Student Participation:
We have grave concerns about the acceptability of certain aspects of the proposed rules and if implemented, they may ultimately turn students away from school meals.

Moving to exclusively 100% whole grain. While increasing the number of whole grains is admirable, requiring whole grains exclusively, two years post implementation, is unrealistic in terms of acceptability. A more acceptable option would be to follow the HealthierUS School Challenge requirement of providing one serving of whole grain daily as identified in Gold with Distinction Guidelines.

Limiting starch to 1 cup per week. This limitation will result in the inability to serve, for example, mashed potatoes, baked fries and corn in the same week. This also is unrealistic in terms of acceptability.

Through the use of Nutrient Standard Meal Planning (NSMP) and menu planning which includes HUSSC meal requirements, we are able to provide our students a wide variety of nutritious meals that are low in fat and include essential vitamins. Our recipes are healthy and tasty, resulting in excellent participation rates. We are concerned that the new regulations limit menu planning to the antecedent Food Based method which significantly limits menu variety. We encourage USDA to consider the clear benefits of NSMP as a menu planning option vs. merely an audit function as proposed. We strongly support this option and respectfully request that this flexibility is maintained in the final regulations

We have severe concerns about the cost of the proposed meal patterns especially considering the current food inflation environment. The proposed rules require an increase in the variety of fruits and vegetables as well as requiring an unrealistic increase in the portion size offered with each meal.

The costs associated with the additional daily amount of fruit or juice and protein at breakfast will increase breakfast costs by as much as $0.36 per meal. Additionally, the fruit, vegetable and whole grain requirements will increase the costs associated with lunch by as much as $0.28 per meal above the current cost of a HUSSC lunch. The proposed increase in funding is set at $.06 per lunch only - far less than the cost of implementation for either breakfast or lunch.

Absent adequate funding for the increased amounts of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, school districts will attempt to cover the gap by significantly increasing meal prices to students not enrolled in free or reduced meal programs. This will ultimately result in additional loss of participation from these students and not yield the intended benefit. Simply, the failure to fund the cost of these increases will place an unfunded mandate on schools already struggling to find needed funds to educate students.

As practitioners of school meal programs, we know that the increase in fruit and vegetable portions, while welcome by some students is simply beyond the physical capacity for many students to ingest. The meal pattern changes, as proposed, will create significant waste in school meal programs, particularly at the elementary school level. Should the final rules mandate "Offer vs. Serve" at all grade levels, as a method to both reduce waste and control costs, the overall acceptability of these rules by Missouri Educators would be enhanced.

The proposed rules include a new standard for meals that has not been tested in a school setting to accurately measure acceptability, cost, and waste. This is very risky for every school district participating in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs. HealthierUS School Challenge is currently the gold standard for school meals. We chose to participate in HUSSC because it provides a healthy meal pattern for students; demonstrates success in maintaining student participation with school meals; and maintains manageable costs.

We welcome the opportunity to comment on the proposed regulation and we hope that the administration gives our concerns full consideration. We remain committed to promoting a healthy lifestyle for our students and invite you to come tour any of the schools we serve to better understand the concerns we have about these proposed changes. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need additional information.

Kevin Short

Opaa! is pleased to announce that our elementary school menus are in compliance with the Healthier US School Challenge at the bronze level. Kevin Short, President, noted that "our menus have been reviewed by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Regional Office in Denver, Colorado. By meeting the guidelines of the school meals component, elementary schools served by Opaa! now have the ability to seek Healthier US School Challenge certification in their districts."

The Challenge was established by USDA to recognize schools that are creating healthier school environments through their promotion of good nutrition and physical activity. The Healthier US School Challenge recognizes those schools that make the following changes to their school nutrition environment:

  • School Meals - Improve the variety and nutrition of foods served
  • Nutrition Education - Provide students with nutrition education
  • Physical Activity - Provide students with physical education and opportunities for physical activity.

Sheila Frost, Vice President of Wellness & Nutrition stated, "The Opaa! corporate menu has been developed to reflect good menu planning principles, such as serving a variety of healthier foods that look good, taste good, and appeal to the cultural sensitivities of our school and community populations. Our menus emphasize a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Opaa! continues to serve only fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products."

Opaa! has taken the lead in the State of Missouri in meeting the meal requirement component of the Healthier US School Challenge initiative. Short said, "we look forward to supporting our clients to become Healthier US School Challenge certified."

Opaa! Food Management, Inc. is based in Chesterfield, Missouri, and is entering its 33rd year of operation. Opaa! currently operates the nutrition programs for 78 Missouri school districts. Opaa! Food Management partners with each school served to tailor a child nutrition program that meets its local community's needs.

At its annual 2010 Summer Retreat held July 13-15, Craig Cohen, Sr. Vice President of Operations for Opaa! Food Management, announced Joyce Pierce, Opaa!'s Director of Nutrition Services for the Hayti School District, as the recipient of the 2009-10 New Director of the Year award. Joyce was selected by company officials as the New Director of the Year from among all of Opaa!'s New Directors of Nutrition Services across the State of Missouri. The criteria for selection included top ranking in the categories of creative marketing, employee training, employee safety, fiscal performance, and student and adult participation.

During the award presentation, Cohen noted that to earn this award Joyce attained a high level of achievement in the Pursuit of Excellence Program and demonstrated effective leadership skills in her first full year with the Hayti School District.

Joyce and her husband, George, have been married for 22 years and live in Caruthersville, MO. They have two sons, Michael and G.W., who works for Opaa! in Caruthersville. In her free time Joyce loves to spend time with family. She attends craft fairs and flea markets, and makes the occasional trip to the casinos.

Opaa! Food Management, Inc., is based in Chesterfield, Missouri, and is entering its 33rd year of operation. Opaa! currently operates the nutrition programs for 75 Missouri school districts. Opaa! Food Management, based in Chesterfield, Missouri, specializes in serving only K-12 school districts. We partner with each school served to tailor a child nutrition program that meets its local community's needs. We deliver a wide variety of fresh, safe, and nutritious choices, to support a healthy learning environment, at an exceptional value. As a family owned company, the warm hospitality of our team members is a tribute to our mission- "Make Their Day!"