Interviewees: Ignacio Santos, Dina Lorenzo, Jesse Rosario, and DeAnndra Chargualaf
Interviewer: Jeffrey Boyce
Date: November 29, 2012
Location: National Food Service Management Institute
Description: Ignacio Santos is the federal programs administrator for Guam. Dina Lorenzo is the senior state program officer. Jesse Rosario is the state program officer for nutrition. DeAnndra Chargualaf has worked in the child nutrition program for almost two years.
Jeffrey Boyce: I’m Jeffrey Boyce and it is November 29, 2012, and I am here at the National Food Service Management Institute at the University of Mississippi with Ignacio Santos, Dina Lorenzo, Jesse Rosario, and DeAnndra Chargualaf, and they are all from the Guam Department of Education. Welcome you all and thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. Could we begin with you Ike, and then we’ll follow through with each of you, could you tell me a little bit about yourselves, where you were born and where you grew up?
Ignacio Santos: My real name is Ignacio C. Santos. They call me Ike. I’m the federal programs administrator, which has oversight over all the federal grants and programs within the Guam Department of Education. We serve both public and private non-profit education institutions on Guam. I grew up in Guam. I was an island boy at heart. Growing up I recall in the islands fishing for food, killing chickens for fresh – we call it fresh kadon manok, which is chicken soup. You catch the chicken in the yard and you cook it and boil the water and pluck the feathers. Whenever there’s parties you kill the cow and kill the pig, and we just have a great old island fiesta. I was educated here in the U.S. mainland and eventually returned back home. And I’m glad that I’m playing an integral part in the education and the child nutrition of Guam schoolchildren. And to me that is one of my greatest successes, is bringing back, because I was one of those that was part of the school lunch program. Specifically, I came with a large number of siblings, so with that in mind we were eligible for free and reduced school meals and I grew up with that. And now I play an integral part as the administrator with complete oversight over the child nutrition program. And I want to make sure that the way I was fed at the school in the ’60s and ’70s, that I’m able to do the same thing for our schoolchildren both in the public and private school.
JB: Paying it back.
IS: Paying it back.
JB: You mentioned participating. Were the meal items very different on Guam than they were possibly on the mainland? First of all for those who don’t know tell us exactly where Guam is located.
IS: Guam is located in the middle of the northwest Pacific Ocean. We are somewhat between about three and a half, four hours from Japan and about seven hours from the Hawaiian Islands.
JB: By air of course.
IS: By air of course. It’s considered to be the gateway to Asia for the U.S. because it’s the most far away American soil close to Asia, and so we are all very proud Americans. We are all American citizens and we’re so glad that we are able to participate in the training by the National Food Service Management Institute.
JB: And we’re happy to have you here. Ok Dina, tell us about where you were born and grew up.
Dina Lorenzo: Well, actually I’m a Chamorrita. I was born and raised in Guam and then I also went to college in Guam.
JB: And what did you study?
DL: I studied actually business and public administration. What it is is I went to school, worked; I was a mother, a wife, and a student all at the same time.
JB: That’s a plateful.
DL: Yes. I did my bachelor’s in three years and then my master’s in one, so pretty much it was – it was ok – but now I’m paying back to the school system, because that is where I received my scholarship – through the government of Guam. So now it’s my time to pay it back to the government.
JB: And what do you do?
DL: I am the senior state program officer, not only for the child nutrition and food distribution program, but also for other Title 5 consolidated grant programs. We do both – USDA and U.S. Department of Education.
JB: And DeAnndra, you’re from Guam also, you grew up there?
DeAnndra Chargaulaf: Yes. I’m also a Chamorrita.
JB: I’m sorry?
DC: I’m also a Chamorrita.
IS: A Chamorrita is a girl – our indigenous language and culture is known as the Chamorros – for men we’re the Chamorros, and for women they are the Chamorritas. They are female ladies of the islands. They grew up in the islands understanding the culture and the language, and most of all being able to provide the island spirit.
DL: And I too plucked chickens.
JB: Well, I’ll go ahead and jump in there. I wanted to say that that sounded so much like myself as a small child with my grandparents. I was horrified with plucking the chickens, but that’s what they did.
DL: We’re experts; we’ll show you.
JB: Okay. And so –
DC: I grew up in Guam, born and raised, the southern part of the island, in a village called Inarajan. I’m the youngest of three, but my family is really big, because my dad’s side there is eight brothers, four sisters, my mom’s side the opposite, eight sisters, four brothers, so a big, big family, lots of extended family. I’ve been with the child nutrition programs for about a year and nine months now.
JB: So you’re a newbie here to learn.
DC: Yea, I’m a newbie. I went to school at the University of Guam. My major was consumer agronomy sciences with emphasis on nutrition. And I’m pretty sure Jesse is going to tell you the same because we were classmates. We went to school together.
JB: What’s the population of Guam?
IS: About 180,000.
JB: Ok. So Jesse, a native…is it Guamian?
Jesse Rosario: Guamanian.
IS: But we consider ourselves – we’re part of the indigenous language and culture – Chamorro.
JR: My name is Jesse Rosario. I was raised on Guam, born in Germany. My dad was in the military. We moved back to Guam when I was seven and been there ever since. My family on Guam is known for fishing, so we’re in the water a lot. I’ve been in the water since I was small all the way up until now. I too am a University of Guam graduate, and I graduated in 2005, winter of 2005. I have a bachelor’s in consumer/family science with an emphasis in nutrition. And I’ve been in the nutrition field for about seven or eight years now; worked at the hospital, worked for the University of Guam, now in the child nutrition program, so I’ve been doing the nutrition field for a while and I love it. It’s my passion.
JB: And what exactly do you do now in your current position?
JR: I am the state program officer for nutrition for the child nutrition program.
JB: So you make sure everybody’s making all the USDA standards?
JB: Well, getting back to Ike, you said you participated in the school lunch. Tell me about that. What were some of your favorite menu items?
IS: You know, growing up back then the regulations, although we participated in the National School Lunch Program when it was established back in 1972, the food was made from scratch. The cakes were made from scratch. You had homemade cooked meals. A lot of it was indigenous meals that met the nutritional requirements. Of course you had the starches, which was the plain white rice, and we have you call it the bistek. It’s steak made with a Chamorran, an island way of making steaks. Of course you have the green beans and the milk. But back then the milk was reconstituted milk because there was no real dairy on Guam and it was very expensive to bring fresh fluid milk. And under my leadership as a state administrator for the child nutrition that was one of the focuses, that I can actually say that now every child on Guam participating in the National School Lunch Program has for breakfast and lunch if they wish, fresh fluid milk from a cow.
JB: And how do you get it?
IS: Through defense logistics. It’s part of the U.S. Department of Defense, and it was an agreement made between Department of Defense and USDA in D.C. that authorized Guam Department of Education to get fresh commodities to include fresh fluid milk from the U.S. mainland, shipped or flown in by the military for Guam schoolchildren. And so that has been a real treat, and we’ve seen the increase in use and consumption of fresh fluid milk. We have a variety of milk that our students consume. It’s chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, just regular milk. But all in all they get those nutritional requirements, and as I said, growing up in the school lunch program, I want to make it better. And it’s through the leadership of DeAnndra, Jesse, and of course Dina, as a senior state program officer, and the rest of the state agency child nutrition staff that are able to make it better. And when I say better, not just nutritious, but being able to get the right wholesome food for all our schoolchildren in Guam, both public and private schools.
JB: How many meals do you feed a day in Guam?
DL: Seventeen thousand meals a day – that’s for lunch.
JB: And breakfast?
IS: Breakfast is 10-11,000.
JB: That’s not bad.
IS: Like I said, growing up we did not have – it was the plain Carnation milk in the can or reconstituted milk. That was the only means of us getting milk. We grew up with that. And then when there was a greater opportunity to bring fresh fluid milk from the cow to Guam for our students we jumped at it, and we’ve seen the changes. You have students really taking now the milk. Not just drinking it, but taking it home. For students who don’t want their milk they usually ask if they can just take it home. I see very positive changes. So when you ask the question ‘How has it been growing up, and now?’, now with the new nutritional requirements we’re trying to go back to basic, trying to get back to the home-cooked style meals. We call it tinaktak, which is a ground beef or ground turkey type thing, island-style, with tomatoes and green beans, and students continue to love that.
JB: What are some of the main staples then on Guam? Is rice -?
JB: Is it grown on the island?
IS: No, everything literally has to be shipped in. Of course we do have, and we see the change from lifestyle and through generations, because I remember growing up and the main staple was of course rice, but there was also breadfruit, which is grown on-island on a huge tree. We also have root crops. We call them kamuki, or dag, which are yam or sweet potato, which are grown on the island. But the change – that generation gap – they are more into hamburgers now and to the fast food.
JB: Fast food has made it to Guam.
IS: Has made it to Guam. We used to have the largest McDonalds on Guam, but all in all we’re trying to, as I said, to the nutrition efforts of Jesse, DeAnndra, and of course Dina, we’re trying to bring these things back to basic, trying to put some of the typical meals that our parents would cook for dinner back to the school lunch programs. We have soup that students still continue to like. We call it kadu manuk, or chicken soup, broth-type, that’s normally served when it’s rainy or when we’re expecting a typhoon, we call it a hurricane here in the U.S., or when there’s a storm brewing. The students love the wholesome soups that we would make for the National School Lunch Program. We’re trying to bring these basic meals back to our students.
JB: How are you able to do that with the labor costs? I know that’s a big issue on the mainland. Is it not also in Guam?
IS: Yes it is, and we’re right now trying to conduct a cost study analysis and submit that report to the Western Region Office, and eventually to Headquarters. And what this cost study is is that right now Guam is – our federal reimbursement under the child nutrition is comparable to that of the contiguous United States, but the cost of living, the cost to prepare a meal is much greater than that of the contiguous United States. Just the milk alone – a milk let’s say in Mississippi or even Wisconsin will cost maybe 12 cents or 17 cents for a little pint milk. In Guam it’s up to 57 cents, because it has to be shipped to Guam. The cost is considerably higher, on top of an orange or an apple that you will get for a few cents here in the mainland; it costs us a pretty penny, sometimes 30, 40, 50 cents just for that one apple. And so that study, what we will be requesting for is look at that cost per meal, look at the cost of living, and appeal to the Western Region Office and say, “Look, the cost of living in Guam to prepare that school lunch is much greater than that of the contiguous United States, and we’re requesting for an increase in the federal reimbursement to sustain the program.” We’re not there to make a pretty profit. We’re there to be able to ensure that the program is sustainable and that there’s continuity so that these students have a right to a healthy, nutritious meal. And that’s just the bottom line.
JB: What industry is on Guam?
IS: The main industry in Guam is tourism. We have over a million tourists, Japanese and Asian and now Russian tourists that visit our island’s tropical beaches and weather, and it has boosted our economy. And of course the second largest is the military, the U.S. military. We’re expecting the military build-up to between five and ten thousand military personnel to come to Guam. And there are concerns, because the infrastructure may not be able to accommodate the increase. And when we say five to ten thousand military personnel that equates to about three additional for their families, and so we’re looking about between 25 and possibly 40 thousand additional people on top of 180,000 population, and so the infrastructure in Guam may not be able to sustain the increase. And so with the child nutrition program, how does that relate? We’d like to be able to provide those military children, because they become our children as they participate in the National School Lunch Program, whether it be DoDEA schools or public schools, they’re part of the school lunch program, and we’d like to be able to provide them healthy, nutritious meals.
JB: Of course. Backing up a little bit, I believe you said you were educated on the mainland?
JB: And where did you study?
IS: In California – going to California – that was a dream. I had the opportunity to go to school there, and upon graduation I came back to visit my sick dad, and it was only supposed to be for a couple of weeks. That couple of weeks turned out to be a month. The month turned to a year. A year now comes to now, and I have a family and I have no regrets. I have no regrets that I returned back home. And as I said, that has always been a lifelong dream for me to return back home and be able to give back to our island, because there is a brain drain on our island. Those who are educated in the mainland continue to stay back in the mainland, because the opportunities are greater there. Mine was supposedly just to visit my sick dad and only to find out that I really missed home, and I’m glad. I have no regrets coming back and giving back in my capacity as the state administrator for these federal grants, making sure that the programs, the monies we receive from the U. S. government get to where it’s supposed to get to. And in this case the child nutrition and the food distribution programs. When I say it’s not just the child nutrition but the food distribution programs, we provide emergency food assistance to families, needy families on Guam, and when I see these families line up for food I recall the days that my mom would do the same thing too. And so that brings to heart that I like to continue to do that, and it really brings to heart that if you can be able to provide that opportunity, just that little, because in most cases it becomes very humbling to ask for help. And then as soon as they’re able to get on their two feet and move forward – I see that – I see that it’s a humbling experience, but at the same time it’s when you really need it the most, especially those type of assistance.
JB: They’re lucky to have you. What did you study when you were in California?
IS: It was international business management, and I was working for a large financial institution in the mainland.
JB: How did you get into child nutrition?
IS: By accident – I was working with the Guam Department of Education as their chief planner at the time, and the superintendent at the time – this happened to be about nine years ago – received notice by USDA Western Region Office that Guam is being put on notice for failure to comply with the requirements of the child nutrition, and he didn’t know what’s going on. I said, “What do you expect me to do, miracles?” He said, “Exactly that.” And less than a year into the job I pulled Dina to join me to help straighten this out, and later on Jesse and DeAnndra. Although there are still challenges I’m very, very optimistic that a lot of those challenges have been successes. There’s still more to go. There’s still more to do. But with this team here and the others that are back home we’ll overcome it. But as I said, my experience into the child nutrition was actually by mistake. And when I say mistake, there was really nobody else to do it, and so they said, “Ike, can you see what can be done?” And nine years later we’ve gotten to know the Western Region Office, I’ve gotten to know your previous director, Dr. Charlotte Oakley, and now your current NFSMI director, who’s been very, very supportive of Guam and our needs, and we’ll be requesting technical assistance, not just for Guam, and hopefully piggyback with the other insular areas, such as the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa. We’re so way out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that the technical assistance that NFSMI would bring to the islands will be greatly beneficial and we’re so appreciative of their assistance.
JB: We’re here to serve all Americans.
IS: Even the cost study – they provided some technical assistance that we can be able to move forward with that.
JB: Do you feel like your educational background in international business helped you in this position?
IS: Going to college only provided me the discipline – all it was. And I’ve constantly told others it opened the doors and it provided me the discipline to do what I needed to do. In the case of fixing what needed to be fixed under the child nutrition program that was exact discipline. It’s writing the reports, and a lot of it was just being able to report back to the federal entity what are the challenges, what are the successes, and asking them to help us, tell us what needs to be done. And it was a quick learning process; opening up the CFRs [?], reading the requirements, reading the regulations. I mean I literally told Western Regional Office, “Talk to me and tell me like I’m a third-grader what I need to do to make it happen.” And I said, “I need your help.” And lo and behold, they brought in the cavalry. They were able to provide us some tech assistance. They told us what we needed to do, and we were there with open arms, open hearts, and open minds, and we were able to take those challenges and move them to successes, so the question, if my educational background provided me with the fundamentals to move us to where I am at today, definitely, it was the discipline that caused the successes of the programs for Guam.
JB: You’ve talked about shipping and everything having to be imported, the food, what are some of the other unique things about Guam in regard to child nutrition programs?
IS: I’m going to leave that to DeAnndra and Jesse, who are really in the front lines of where things need to get to about commodities, the procurement of these commodities into our school system.
JB: Tell me about a typical day if there is one, and some of the challenges that you face.
DC: There is no typical day.
JR: There is no typical day. There’s so much going on in Guam. Even though we’re a small island there’s a lot going on. Every day it’s a different thing that we have to handle.
DC: We tag-team everything.
JR: The one thing on Guam that I think is beneficial for us is we’re a close-knit community and our strength is in working together, and we have really good teamwork at the child nutrition office. Our whole office just pulls together to make things work.
DC: I think in regard to what’s unique with Guam, maybe it’s the types of meals that we have to serve. We have to make it culturally relevant for our kids, because we can’t just keep putting, although they love the hotdogs and hamburgers, you have the kids like me, growing up in the south, I want the Chamorro food.
JB: What would that be?
DC: Like Ike said, the steak, the tinaktak, the kut du, the dishes that I grew up loving, and so if I had a cycle menu where it was just hotdogs, hamburgers, pasta, I’m not going to want to participate, because I want my pika, the real southern Chamorran cooking. And so I think that’s one thing that is really unique about us, is that we have a cycle menu, that especially this year with the new meal pattern, it was really challenging, but I think we’re finding a lot of success with putting out different types of menu items.
IS: In Guam the children, the students, are somewhat different from that of the U.S. mainland in that when I say different, their eating habits. Here in the mainland you give them beans and potatoes. If you give that to Guam students it will just sit there. So we have to be a little bit creative. How can we get those starches, this high-protein, high-fiber starches? And so what we did, and I’m glad Jesse and DeAnndra are here to attest to what we’ve done, is in Guam the main staple is of course white rice. And so we had to as a result of the new nutritional requirements to serve brown rice. Well, brown rice is somewhat different, because in the Asian countries your rice has to be white unless it’s fried rice. And so what happened was in breakfast we would turn the, well, I’ll have Jesse explain that. Jesse, explain what we did to increase participation with the fried rice program.
JR: Well, like Ike said, we had to be very creative. Kids on Guam like fried rice. He mentioned fried rice. Fried rice is not deep-fried rice. You have rice in the skillet and you mix it with some type of meat like ham, diced up ham, and with some vegetables, peas, carrots, and soy sauce. And you mix all of that together and it’s served warm to the kids.
JB: Is there egg in it?
JR: Sometimes there’s an egg.
JB: Because it sounds very familiar, but here there’s egg in it.
JR: That’s our fried rice. And the rice is brown because of the soy sauce that we use. So, in order to get brown rice into the meals – and everyone told us it’s not going to happen. “Kids love white rice.” And we had to be creative, so we started serving brown rice in the morning. We would mix brown and white rice together, cook it, and then mix that with the eggs and the ham and the vegetables. And when we served it to the kids, the kids thought it was fried rice, white rice with soy sauce, not knowing it was white rice and brown rice mixed together. So they ate it and they were like, “Oh, ok, it’s fried rice”, and they would eat it. And since then we took that and started serving it at lunch. And they thought, “Oh, it’s white rice with soy sauce”, but it’s really brown rice, so that’s one of the things. My greatest recollection of the child nutrition program, I just wanted to say, was about second grade in the early ’90s, ’91 or ’90, and I would go to the cafeteria, and my family, we weren’t qualified for free meals, but everybody loved eating in the cafeteria, all the kids, so at that time it was stamps, the cafeteria staff would stamp your hand, and you would get in line for your meal. What the kids would do was we would lick our hands and we would put our hands together, and I would have a star. And I would line up. And it was always on the day that they served what we have back home called bistek. It’s sliced beef with peas in a soy sauce based sauce over a bed of rice. And then we love that, and the tinaktak, and things like that. So like DeAnndra said and Mr. Santos said, our kids on Guam don’t eat a lot of American food. We found out through the past couple of years that just serving regular American food like hamburgers, hotdogs, macaroni & cheese, and pizzas, which are kids’ staples, kids don’t really go for that, but they really love our cultural food, so we have to start incorporating cultural food into the meals. And we’ve seen a big increase in participation because of incorporating these meals into the child nutrition program.
DL: And if I may, in incorporating your menu we not only tailor it to the Chamorro students, but Guam is very diverse, so we have a lot of Asian, we have a lot of Micronesian families that come in, so we actually have to tailor the menus to actually meet everyone’s pallets, the whole entire community.
JB: I’m glad you brought that up. Is Chamorro the only indigenous ethnicity?
IS: No. We live in a very multi-faceted island. We have Chinese, Japanese, different Asian islands. We have a high number of Filipino. We have Americans, Caucasians, Blacks, Mexicans, and so it’s a very multi-cultural island, and we just have to be able to serve all our students. And as Jesse and DeAnndra and Dina had noted, a lot of it is just basic meals that people love to eat. Yes they love the pizzas, they love the hotdogs, they love the macaroni & cheese; they love the regular American food. But what we’ve seen, a high number of percentage of participants, is when you just give them a wholesome, home-cooked meal, you’ll see that they are there wanting to eat. And so we’re just going back to basic, and as I said, growing up on island in ’60s,’70s, I’ve seen the changes from wholesome cooked meals where the cafeteria ladies come in early and they’ll cook, to processed meals that are brought in ready-made, and so we want to go back to basic. And so that basic is trying to bring back these wholesome meals. And through the training that we’re able to provide through NFSMI we’re able to take that and bring it back and say, “Let’s make it better. Let’s make it so that our students can participate, and be able to see the increases of the program.” And like I said, the bottom line to that is the more students we feed the more healthy our schools become, the more smarter they become. A hungry child cannot learn. A fulfilled child who’s eaten a good meal, you will see that their grades increase, and there’s correlation. Studies have shown that. It’s just basic evidence that students who eat good do well in school. And that’s our role there. And it just so happens that if you don’t have breakfast and lunch served in our public schools there are no classes. Classes are cancelled. So if they cannot serve a lunch school is closed. That’s a success in itself, so we see that if we can’t feed our students there are no classes. There’s a correlation between feeding our students and educating them, so they go hand in hand.
DL: And sometimes that’s the only wholesome meal that they have, is when they actually go to school.
IL: Yes, because if you ask, and there was a study done server years ago, if you ask a child, I believe it was third grade, “What type of meals do you eat in any given day after school?”, it doesn’t even meet the nutritional requirements. They’ll say, “Rice, Spam, and Pepsi.” And the only nutritional meals that they get are in school, where they have five components.
JB: Unfortunately that’s other places other than just Guam. So, Spam made it to Guam with the GIs?
DL: It’s No. 1.
IS: They call it the island steak.
JB: Several years ago I was fortunate enough to get to go to Honolulu and do six of these interviews and I was – you walk into 7-11 and they’re serving a Spam biscuit.
IS: Spam sushi.
DL: I think our consumption in Guam for Spam is a lot greater than that of Hawaii.
JB: Oh, really?
IS: You eat Spam for breakfast, Spam for lunch, and Spam for dinner.
DC: There are Spam cook-offs.
IS: Yes, Spam cook-offs on the island – but although it really has no nutritional requirement because of the fatty tissues and stuff, you know the bottom line to that is that we need to bring back the basic, and as we go through the National School Lunch Program, especially the school lunch, we see the number of students who really want to come and eat, and that’s what we want to see. When I go out in schools and visit the schools and see that students are lining up, and the bell rings and they have to go back, I say, “Uh-uh. Everybody in line you still get to eat.” And they’re like, “But we’re going to be late.” I say, “I’ll sign your passes, but you need to eat.”
JB: Any memorable stories, special children or people you’ve worked with?
IS: There are so many, so many. I recall, and I’ve told school principals this, that if a child forgets their money you are not to send them back to the class. You tell them to go and eat – even if they’re just going to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich – but they must eat. Under no circumstance are you ever to send a child back to the classroom just because they forgot their money. You call their parents up later and you say, “Well, you need to pay because Johnny forgot to pay the lunch.” But never under any circumstance are you going to send a child away from the line hungry. And that has been my position since taking over as the state administrator, and I echo that every time I meet with school administrators – that under no circumstance are you going to send a child, because they forgot their money, hungry. I said, “Think of that as being your own child. Would you send your child away hungry, or go to bed hungry?” It’s very inhumane. You asked about memorable experiences. School administrators will say, “You know what? It has made a difference.” Because sometimes these children don’t want to admit that they are in need of free lunch, but after a while under the direct certification, which is a requirement, they’ve seen the increases and they’ve seen where these students live, and they go back and say, “Ike, I’m really glad that you forced the issue of not sending any child away from the line hungry”, because sometimes they’re just too embarrassed to say, “My mom and dad don’t have any money, and my parents don’t know how to fill out the form for free lunch”, or “My parents can’t read.” These are the most basic, simple, humbling things that a school administrator can do, is just say, “Ok, go and eat son, and we’ll talk about it later.”
JR: I think one of the things that’s really a stepping stone for us is although we’re doing creative things to make the meals a lot better and a lot more nutritious and tasty is it’s hard, because of the meal pattern requirements that come out, it’s hard to get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables and more beans, but we’ve again, being creative, we’ve undertaken a nutrition education campaign. The state agency has a new mascot now called Super Chef. Basically he’s a super hero that gets strong and gets his powers from eating healthy foods like dark green leafy vegetables, whole-grains, and lean proteins, and drinking milk. And we’ve had this super hero go to certain schools and talk to the kids about eating healthy and how they too can become super heroes just by eating healthy. And we’ve seen a dramatic increase in kids participating because they now go to the cafeteria and they’re looking at their tray and they’re seeing salad, and although they don’t like salad – what kid likes to eat salad when they’re in elementary – but they see the salad and they start thinking, “I can be like Super Chef and I can grow up and be a super hero too.” So now we’re seeing kids, although they’re not finishing their salads or finishing their fruits, they’re eating it, which is a big accomplishment.
JB: At least trying it.
JR: Yes. So going to the schools, even without Super Chef, when we do our reviews, we look at the kids eating, and we see a lot of them now eating beans. We see them eating salads and eating fruits and vegetables, and it’s not going to waste anymore.
JB: Sounds like a great program. Let’s just go down the line. I’m going to put you all on the spot. What would you consider your biggest contribution so far to child nutrition in Guam?
DC: I think it was with Super Chef, having some sort of participation with that, and getting that up and running in our schools, with launching that and helping Jesse and Super Chef – I can’t reveal his name – I think that was a big thing that I’ve assisted with.
JR: What about you Jesse?
JR: I think that, like we said, there’s so much going on right now. One of the biggest things coming up for Guam, and it’s going to be really exciting, is we just got the 2012 Team Nutrition Grant for Guam, and we haven’t had that for years now, and it’s going to help us in having a big nutritional campaign, getting out to the schools doing nutrition education with Super Chef, creating the resources for other schools, starting school gardens, having high school kids now being able to participate. And I say participate – we’re going to have a culinary competition for high school kids and they’re going to make reimbursable meals, and we’re going to have it judged and we’re going to have them working with different local chefs on the island to create lunches for the National School Lunch Program. We’re going to take those meals back and put them into our menus, and call it ‘The John Cruise tinaktak for Friday’, Chamorro tinaktak, so we’re giving ownership back to the kids and telling them, “You guys made our Guam menu, and this is what you guys are eating.” We’re going to have other things like a lot of nutritional educational classes for elementary through high school. We’re trying to get out there more now, so that’s what we are looking forward to.
DL: Tell him about the gardens.
JR: Oh! We also have started doing school gardens now, so we have, working with the University of Guam, working with the Department of Agriculture, some schools now have school gardens, where they’re growing eggplant, tomatoes. They’re growing cucumbers. And it doesn’t just stop there in the garden. We’re working with them to do nutritional education, and taking it back into the classrooms and telling them, “Now that you have grown your fruits and vegetables, you take it out of the garden, and you can take it into the kitchen.” And we have some cafeteria managers showing the kids, “Now you can use eggplant, slice it up and throw it into scrambled eggs and make eggplant and eggs for breakfast.” And so we’re really pushing the school gardens and we’re pushing nutrition education now.
DC: I think the main thing [I have done] is getting the child nutrition together, because for many years it was kind of hard for us when we were placed on high risk. And I think it was just getting this program together so that we can move forward, and actually giving that to not only to the community, but really for the students. That’s what it really is. We have come a long way just to put it back together.
IS: You know going back, and having been the senior of them all, and in the program for the last ten years, I’ve seen the program at its worst, and I’ve seen it at its best, and when I say at its worst, it was very, very, very challenging to be told by the Western Region Office that your program is so close to being suspended because of lack of compliance, to now being told you need now to grow the program. Move it to the next level. So I’ve seen it grow from it being with challenges to now being given kudos, to competitive discretionary grants that we’re receiving. So it’s no longer how to make sure that we comply, to ‘What do we need to do to expand the program for more participants to be involved in the whole process?’ And so we’ve come a long way. Guam has come a long way since the ’60s and ’70s and now into the new millennium, going into 2012. What I see next if growing the program, where now students are now telling us, “Well, this is the menu we would like to see”, so that we can share with our students so that we can know that we take ownership of what we’re going to eat. And that’s what I see in the upcoming near future. We’ve come a long way, and it’s through the leadership team of Dina, Jesse, DeAnndra, and the rest of the group in Guam that we’ve seen the successes. And I still have a few more years left, and before I go I’d like to make sure that the program is sustainable, that even if I go or Dina goes or Jesse goes, that the program continues. And that is the success that I’d like to see as I leave the department, because really the continuity of the program is what it should be. And that determines the success of anyone’s leadership, is that the program continues and flourishes.
DC: I believe that Jesse and DeAnndra, promoting them in that direction, because I think Ike and I have so many years that we’re almost there, so they’re actually the next generation.
JB: Anything else that anyone would like to add today?
IS: I’d like to say that the USDA FNS and the National Food Service Management Institute have played an integral part if the success of Guam’s child nutrition and food distribution programs, and when I say that they played an integral part, is that I would ask for their guidance, I would ask for their technical assistance, and never once have they said, “Well, we’ll think about it.” In fact they’ll say, “What do you need? What can we provide you?” And even up until this morning your director said, “Ike, there are opportunities for the insular areas so that we can be able to provide that assistance.” And that is really what I call partnership. And it gives me some comfort to know that although we’re so way out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, that we’re part of this so called family, and to me that gives me some relief, some rewarding notations that we’re in good hands, we’ re in very good hands, that the Jesses and the DeAnndras, as they continue to move up the ladder, that they connect with these people, and that’s the whole reason why they’re here, is that I like to make sure that as we move on the they next level that they come up and say, “Ok, we’re moving forward.” Because I’m not going to be here forever and Dina’s not going to be here forever, and it’s these people that are going to take up those challenges. And as I said earlier, the success of anyone’s leadership is the continuity of the program, and to make it better. And I think through my leadership, through molding them, what they need to do to move things to the next level, I feel very comfortable that they can take on that lead.
JB: Anyone else?
DC: Yes. I just wanted to add that I think what it is is that it’s really, really different, even in the procurement process. We used to have different areas for storage, for transportation, for everything to be prepared, and today we are just one stop. And that’s the reason why I really love this agreement between the two Secretaries, the Agriculture Secretary and the Defense Secretary, when they came up with the Defense Logistics Agreement, is that we’re just going to order all of the commodities and put the commodities in one area. And that’s the biggest change that I believe the child nutrition program has made, is just going to this one stop instead of all of this different array of people that we have to deal with. So that’s one of the biggest accomplishments that we’ve actually had in moving forward.
JB: Well, it looks like we’re about out of time. Thank you all very much for taking the time to talk with me today. It’s been a pleasure.
IS: Thank you very much.