Yesterday was a very early morning which started with a pick-up by my fellow assessor at 6:30am to allow for our long commute towards the western coastal region of the SW Nova District Health Authority. It was an absolutely gorgeous drive and I loved seeing a part of the province I hadn't traveled to before.
Surreal landscape and ocean views.
From a comment I received a la Barb (a professor and the person who challenged me to reflect on a regular basis) who suggested that I clarify the parameters for my declaring how well a FS assessment went in each school - and I completely agree. So before I continue with this post, allow me to specify my parameters for the past and future FS assessments, as yes, if you can't read my mind - and I certainly hope no one can! - then how are you to know?
For a school to be reviewed in a positive light on this blog, it is based simply* on how well the FS assessment (and our presence observing their jobs/routine) was received by the FS worker, principal, and others we come in contact with - positively, negatively, or neutrally. Of course, the FS worker would have the greatest impact on how smoothly or how rough the FS assessment goes as we have the most direct and frequent contact with him or her. A FS worker who is simply nervous, timid, or unsure of how to respond to our presence tends to respond well when rapport is developed (asking about his or her family, how long they've been working in this position, sharing stories with them - I have found that tossing the "I'm getting married" frisbee in casually has loosened 2 out of 4 FS workers up and made them feel more comfortable with me).
*the term "simply" is used to refer to the fact that the parameter of this blog (not in the formal report or outlined in the official assessment results) consists of the attitudes of the person who was involved in the FS assessment at each school and not on other factors - as all the schools being assessed were identified as needing immediately help complying to the policy, so it can be assumed that the menus need some tweaking. "Simply" does not imply ease as building rapport and questioning/observing someone's job is these are neither easy nor simple, but rather complicated undertakings that require a certain delicacy in our approach as assessors.
For a negative (or "it didn't go well") designation, the FS worker may have been hesitant, reluctant, or showed outward irritation that we were there AND that this affected how well we were able to extract information from him or her and effected the flow of the assessment. I found that in schools, so far, where our presence was met with resistance or disdain (which are vastly different from nervousness as observed in a positive/smooth FS assessment), we found that getting thorough and detailed information was very very difficult and could have, in actuality, affected the outcome of the assessment. A FS worker who is already angry, irritated, or offended that we were assessing the school food service that they work in, will not be ass receptive to rapport making the FS assessment a true challenge when it need not be.
So, with the basics outlined above, the FS assessment yesterday was unpleasant and frustrating for me at times. Upon arrival we were overall very well received by the FS worker, admin assistant, and the principal. However, the questions we asked - even though they were neutral in nature and said with an inquisitive tone/phrasing rather than judgemental (which would have gotten us nowhere) - quickly caused an irritation with the FS worker. When I noticed this I waited until the FS worker was out for recess duty then discussed it with my fellow assessor. I was curious to know if a) she noticed it too, b) if it was the way I was phrasing the questions or through non-verbal communication, and c) how she felt we should proceed with the assessment. So, long discussion short, we feel that it was simply that she was being questioned and was taking offense to the questions, perhaps thinking that we were judging her. We decided not to ask her about her resistance, which I support, as she opened up later saying that she was concerned that her job was in jeopardy. However, even after telling us this and us reassuring her that our goal is to keep her in her position to ensure the students received healthy foods, she continued to show annoyance with us. But we were able to finish our assessment and complete the observation of all food services taking place in the school.
What did I discover about this school worth mentioning ?
Unfortunately, it was largely that the FS worker has become demotivated (through years of poor sales and recently reduced hours) and even though she was concerned about her job, she has made no effort to make herself and asset to the school (by means of creativity in food served, following the school food and nutrition policy more strictly, etc.). The menu offered daily is the same one every single day, every month. If I were a student and had the same limited options for lunch, I too would get bored and stop buying. She said that she likes how she can do her job on "auto-pilot" and then later said that there is no one trained to replace her because anyone can make the food on the menu (basic sandwiches, canned soup, chicken or veggie wraps, frozen individual pizzas, frozen potato wedges). Personally, if I were concerned about losing my job, I would make an effort to keep it. Hopefully she takes our recommendations and supports will will offer (which she identified as being interested in - have students taste test new foods and survey students on which foods they would buy if offered) so that she does gain some job security as the Principal mentioned that the cafeteria is losing money
and may have to be shut down.
I am delighted to mention, that despite the lack of variety on the daily menu, the items served were overall fitting with the policy. True moderate items were being offered much too frequently, salad dressing and sauce portion sizes were much too large, the mini pizzas offered daily were cook from frozen made a white crust with pepperoni, sauce, reduced-fat cheese, and no vegetables, and the potato wedges which are a major seller were par-cooked in oil first and had far too much sodium to be offered daily, but what I didn't see was chocolate (other than in milk form)! Hooray for no chocolate!
I do think that a lot of positives came out of yesterday in terms of the FS assessment and what we will hopefully be able to offer in supports to the FS worker... I just hope the FS worker eventually believes/agrees that it was a worthwhile endeavor.