Taking a proactive, collaborative approach with its suppliers, foodservice provider Sodexo has created a non-proprietary portfolio of manufactured whole grain-rich products that has resulted in meal counts surpassing those prior to the implementation of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act.

In a June 24 presentation at the Whole Grains Summit 2015 at The Nines hotel in Portland, Lisa Feldman, director of culinary services for the Sodexo Education Offer Development Center, Germantown, Md., discussed how her perceptions of the school food service environment have changed and how Sodexo has established partnerships that have proved successful in getting more whole grains to students.

“As a chef, being in schools has been very, very interesting,” Feldman said. “When I first entered the school environment I sort of marched in and said, ‘I know how to cook. I know what to do. I can fix you.’ They didn’t know they were broken, but I thought they were. I went in gung-ho and was like ‘These are all the great things we’re going to do,’ and they were like, ‘Yeah, you can’t do that here. You don’t know what you’re talking about.’”

She likened being a chef in schools to learning Spanish language skills over many decades in preparation for being dropped by plane into Spain and being able to speak fluently, and then getting on that plane and being dropped into the Sudan instead, where nothing you had prepared for will help you at all.

“It’s been a very big learning curve, and I think it’s been a learning curve for a lot of our school environments as we’ve started to transition to more whole grain products,” Feldman said.