Charlotte Oakley: Dr. Martin, we have heard a lot about what happened in the 50s and the 60s. Tell us more about things that happened in the 70s and the 80s that led toward the development of the modern child nutrition programs.
Josephine Martin: One of the more exciting things that had happened was that some of the people that we worked with in 60’s then joined the administration in the 70s. While they had been very active in the congressional area in the 60s, they became a part of the administration in the early 70s, and we could talk with those people about the needs of states. One of the things we had a great need for was a planned program of training for school nutrition people. We had the money out there to provide meals, but we didn’t have the trained professional people. Most states didn’t have the money or the facilities or the guidelines for training. So, I was talking with this person who happened to be a part of the administration in the 60s about the need for some higher education support. He said that he could work with the land grant college people in Washington and arrange for some conferences to be held at land grant colleges that would train these new foodservice directors who had come into the program with all of this expansion. He began to work with that and we got four or five of those regional conferences held while he was still there. He was very supportive about the need for training. And those of us from the Southeast invited him to come in and meet with the Southeast state directors at another one of our informal conferences. We met up in Sapphire Valley, North Carolina, with the people from the Southeast, plus Thelma – including Thelma. She came to Atlanta and I met the guy from Washington and Thelma, and we drove to Sapphire Valley and in a very comfortable situation there the five or six of us sat around this big roaring fire and dreamed. We dreamed about what the future should be. One of the things that we dreamed that I know that you will be excited about was that there needs to be an institute, a national institute for training child nutrition personnel. And that idea was so great that we all believed in it, because the states did not have the mechanisms set up nationwide for training. Another thing that came out was that we needed nutrition education. The big idea that came out of the Sapphire Valley Conference was that. But we continued to work with Congress and in 1977 the Nutrition and Education Training Program was established. That was an interesting thing. I have to go back a little bit. I think I told you what a great supporter Senator Humphrey was. He was such a great supporter. He and Senator Dole and Luger, that group of people. They were just so wonderful. Senator Humphrey had been diagnosed with cancer and had undergone chemotherapy. The Association decided that it would like to honor him with an awards dinner in Washington, which we had. Dr. Jean Mayer, who had been chairman of the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health was invited to come to that awards dinner, and he came. Senator Humphrey was there. He knew that we were really working on getting nutrition ed, and he made this statement that I will never forget. “You will probably get nutrition education. You won’t get it for the right reasons.” He was sitting there. His hair was gone because of the chemo. He was struggling to survive cancer, which he did for a few more months. But he said, “You will get nutrition ed, but not for the right reasons. You won’t get it because it is right for children or because they need to learn healthy food habits. You will get it when Congress finally decides that the high cost of healthcare is more than it can bear. You will get it. They won’t think about the suffering of families, of people with cancer or any other chronic diseases, but they will look at the cost of, how much we are paying for healthcare.” And as I think back today on that statement by Senator Humphrey I think that is so true. Now we are looking at this new century and looking at the problems of chronic diseases and how they are running up the high cost of healthcare, and how even now, the United States Congress today, tomorrow, or next week, no, I guess that piece of legislation is on the president’s desk right now to be signed that will expand the provisions of the Congress to make preventive health a reimbursable matter for dieticians. In the past only diabetes and some of the more chronic diseases have been reimbursable, but now, preventive health, realizing the risk factors of obesity and some other things. So Senator Humphrey’s statement is coming true. That was 1977. This is 20 years ago that he made this statement. I think this is another one of those lessons that we need to learn. Change is not overnight. It is not an instant fix. Sometimes it takes a long time. Seeds have to be planted. The ideas have to be grown. We have to nurture them and we must never give up. As Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never give up,” because if we have something we believe in, we have to go for it and we have to stay with it. So, I think one of the exciting things about the future is that what we are seeing is the realization that some of our dreams from the 40s and 50s are really coming true. The gaps are being closed. That is so good for the next generation of children. That was brought home to us so much in the 2004 reauthorization bill where Congress provided for a local wellness policy, requiring local school districts to establish a wellness policy that brought together physical activity and nutrition. Some people may think, “That was the first time we have ever heard of physical fitness or physical activity and nutrition being tied together.” Oh, it wasn’t the first time. Bud Wilkinson was appointed by President John Kennedy as the first fitness director who was ever appointed by a president. Bud Wilkinson made this statement, “It is possible to be nutritionally nourished without being physically fit, but it is not possible to be physically fit without being adequately nourished.” To have that coming from a physical activity person was so important to focus on in the mid-60s, and it has taken us 20-plus years to get around to seeing the relationship between physical activity and nutrition. It hasn’t taken the administration or the executive branch or USDA that long, because back when the dietary guidelines were updated in 2005 they did tie physical activity with nutrition. So, there has been a constant concern for tying physical activity with nutrition. I think we are going to see more and more of the relationship between those two, tying them together. We saw some of this when the coordinated school health program was established in the 90s. The school nutrition program was one of the important areas of a comprehensive school health program. We are not just seeing the child nutrition program as a foodservice program, but it is beginning to being recognized as an integral part of a comprehensive school health program. Now, more and more, we are seeing it as an important part of the academic area of schools. We began to see that in the mid- to late-90s, when the nutrition research was coming out that showed the relationship between children having breakfast at school and their performance in the classroom. That did provide a great stimulus for advancement of the School Breakfast Program. And now school breakfast is recognized as probably the most important meal of the school day. Most of us know that we can’t have an adequate diet unless we have an adequate breakfast. Within the last couple of days I have heard again in the media that if you want to lose weight start with a good, healthy breakfast. It’s all beginning to tie together and I think the public is realizing the importance of nutrition and great healthy lifestyle, and that is what we are really working for, a healthy lifestyle based on good preventive health.
CO: Dr. Martin, tell us about the 1980s and the 1990s and the legislation that took place during that time.
JM: When a piece of legislation is signed by the president, the Congress is authorizing a provision for something to happen. It’s either authorized on a permanent basis or a discretionary basis. If it is a permanent basis, like the School Lunch Program was permanently authorized in 1946, we don’t have to look at that again. Congress has a right to look at it, but they don’t have to look at it unless they want to. Some pieces of legislation are funded only for a four-year period. Legislation indicates funding will be provided from 1994 to 1998. That means it is a discretionary funding, so in 1998 Congress has to look at that piece of legislation again and determine whether or not they will fund it for the next four-year period. They usually look at funding on a four-year basis. That’s why we have the 2004 Reauthorization Bill. We had a 1998 Reauthorization Bill. Nineteen-ninety-four required the implementation of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in school meals, and in 1998, we had a reauthorization bill that came out in 1989. Now, something really exciting happened in that year. We really had a down time in the early 80s. That was when we were experiencing the horrible 70s and early 80s deficits. The programs had not been cut, but the funding had been cut desperately in the early 80s. The American School Food Service Association decided that they wanted to ask for something positive. They had just been defending where we were and they just wanted to ask for something positive. They suddenly remembered that way back in 1977 at a long-range planning conference in Vail, Colorado, that was called the Vision of Vail, there was a recommendation for the establishment of a national food service management institute. That was an idea that was born in 1973; was dormant until 1977. It came back up in 1977, and now had been dormant for another ten years. They asked Congress to provide $50,000 to establish a feasibility study to determine whether or not there needed to be a Food Service Management Institute established in the state of Mississippi. Congress invited one of the higher education officials from the University of Southern Mississippi to come up and talk to one of the senators from Mississippi and to the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee in the House and talk with them about the need for an institute in Mississippi. Dr. Aline Vaden was the person chosen for that. She spoke to them and both Senator Cochran and Congressman Whitten listened to her, and funding was provided for a feasibility study. The feasibility study was conducted by a group of people with the Board of Higher Education, the IHL Board in Mississippi, and determined that there was a need and that the IHL system did have the provisions to house such an institute. That report went back to Congress and Congress then established legislation in the 1998 Reauthorization Bill that was passed in 1989 to establish a food service management institute at the University of Mississippi to be operated in cooperation with the University of Southern Mississippi. It was felt that it was so wonderful to have two universities and that each one had capabilities that would lend their support to it, but the headquarters for the Institute would be at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. The purpose of the Institute was very, very clear. That had been written basically by the advisory committee that was appointed, and it was to provide for the general improvement of the operation of child nutrition programs in America. It should do three things: It should conduct applied research to improve the general operation; and a laundry list related to education and training. The Institute should develop educational materials, should establish a national network of trainers, and should provide training and education for groups in all areas of food service management. It had a third purpose, and that was to provide for the dissemination of information. It would be an institute that could be an agency that would collect all of these wonderful nutrition education and training materials that had been developed in the states, that it would a repository for things that the USDA and the Institute had developed, and would disseminate those. It provided the three basic purposes: research, education, and information dissemination. It was one of those discretionary programs. Funding was provided for four years, which meant that by the time the University of Mississippi was able to get the Institute established one of the early things they did was to start to look for an Executive Director. By the time the first Executive Director got there in 1991 a year had gone by of the four years. But that had not stopped Dr. Jeanette Phillips and her crew from already doing things. By the time that the American School Food Service Annual Conference in 1991 rolled around Dr. Phillips had a Breakfast Lunch Training module ready to go for that first conference. In 1991, the first full-time Executive Director was there, and I happened to be fortunate enough to be selected for that, thinking I would go to Mississippi and stay one year, maybe two years, never more than two years. “Are you going to buy a house?” “Not by any means. I didn’t come to Mississippi to stay. I am going to stay in my house in Atlanta”. Well, after about four years I said, “You know, it is time for me to go home.” At the end of the fifth year I did announce that I was leaving and I was retiring. I was able to retire from there and I came back to Georgia, but the five years at the Mississippi institute were wonderful. We did some great things. We had a great team of people that were brought in. We had a great advisory committee. We worked very diligently on those three things; to establish the Institute in the minds of the state agency people and the local people as a place they could come to for support and help, a place that conducted research if they needed to know, for example, what do we need to do in order to have a quality nutrition program. What are the competencies needed for school nutrition people? Congress also had some ideas about what we needed to do. Senator Robert Dole, I believe it was in late 1991, maybe early 1992, sent word down that he wanted the Institute to do something to create a national awareness of the importance of schools and school districts doing more to take care of the special dietary needs of children who had handicaps. Normally those children would be the ones in Special Ed, not necessarily, but generally that was the group he was referring to. What are you doing for the special dietary needs of children in Special Ed? There was legislation that was passed in the Americans with Disabilities Act that said we should be doing something. Congress had said something in the IDEA act, that was the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act program that we should be doing something. Schools had not really taken this seriously. So Senator Dole said, “Do something. Make the public aware of this.” We thought, “Why don’t we bring together a multi-disciplinary group and have a national conference, and let’s have it in Kansas City. Senator Dole is from Kansas and if we had it in Kansas City, maybe Senator Dole -,” because we were working with one of his staff members with this. We set the conference up in Kansas City. We had doctors, speech pathologists, social workers, Special Ed teachers. We had the full multi-disciplinary group of health professionals that work with special needs children to come to that conference. We had several hundred people who came and talked about the need and about what each one of their special areas needed in order to provide greater support. One of the areas that everyone talked about was more coordination at the community level so that we are all talking together and that the schools recognize that there is a need to do more than just make sure a child in a wheelchair has a place to sit. So that was a great experience. Senator Dole came and spoke to the group and that was very impressive that he would take the time out of his very busy schedule to come. As a follow-up to that activity the USDA then began to work on training materials; they began to focus to help schools and school districts and state agencies to understand their responsibilities for administering the regulations the way they were established. Of course the Institute did a number of things. One of the things we would often hear from local school districts was, “We can’t afford the special foods children have to have.” The Applied Research Division did a national study to determine what it would cost to take care of the special dietary needs, to determine what appliances were needed in the schools to take care of special dietary needs. That report was published. Another thing that the Institute, in education did, they developed a bibliography of resources and that was sent out to all state agencies, available to local school districts about the material that was available, the education and training that was available. And so training programs began to emerge nationwide on how to meet the dietary needs of children who had special needs that were in school. That was an exciting special project. Another early thing that happened at the Institute, this was when Dr. Phillips was the interim, or the first Acting Executive Director, the Advisory Committee said we should have two advisory committees. One should be a general advisory committee that was appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, that would consist of five people. And then there should be research, education, and training advisory committee that got named the Retab that would really work on the nuts and bolts of what the Institute needed to do. And Dr. Phillips organized, she was on the General Advisory Committee and she put together the Retab Committee. I happened to be invited. I was still back at the state agency at that point. I was invited to serve on that committee. I was assigned to work with the group that would define technology, the technology division of the Institute. I thought, “What is that? I don’t even have a computer.” Anyway, we worked on something that we came up with. But then the Education and Training Committee really came up with the piece. They said what we needed were some little short pieces of training that the Institute can offer so that a school nutrition manager who has ten minutes can offer that little segment of training to her foodservice assistants. It got to be tabbed a BLT. It was a ten-minute breakfast lunch training module. To this day the Institute, as you know, has the BLT, and the name probably can never be eliminated, because regardless of the content the BLT is going to be there because it is so well established in the Institute. That was one of the signature pieces that has lasted over the years. Another thing is that the Institute was established in Mississippi. How do we reach the 95,000 schools and the childcare centers, roughly those 100,000 entities? How do we do that? Well, one of the things that we could do was to develop some training programs and deliver them by satellite. That was an innovative idea because some of us never developed the first video or film on school nutrition, much less think about how it would be transmitted by satellite. So we had to put together a team that would write the script and film it and then figure out how to notify the many schools in the nation and to get training sites set up where people could receive the satellite seminars. And so that started in the early 90s. The satellite seminars, even with the advancement of technology, continue to this day. Technology expanded the capacity of the Institute to reach so many more school nutrition, not just school nutrition, personnel involved in child nutrition programs through the Web than we could have ever dreamed of when we only had the satellite programs.
CO: Dr. Martin, tell us about that first satellite seminar.
JM: Well, that was quite an experience. It was quite an experience to put together the first satellite program. We had some very interesting experiences on the campus of the University of Mississippi. First of all, here are two ladies over at the Institute that are asking to have a satellite program that will be transmitted nationally from Oxford, Mississippi. And, those two ladies didn’t have a lot of experience in writing scripts or knowing exactly how to put it together. There were some skeptics on the campus who thought it couldn’t be done. We were kind of like that little man when they said it couldn’t be done and he started to sing as he tackled the thing and what do you know, he had done it. Dr. Phillips and I sat down and wrote the script for that first satellite program. She knew somebody who had previously worked at the University of Mississippi that she contacted to come in and be the director/producer for that program. And Ty had a lot of contacts and he had a lot of footage from other programs that he had developed that he could put into that program. We did devise a program. We got our talent together. We got the content together. We got the fun part. We had the high energy music in there. And at the end we wanted to thank the school nutrition people across America for the wonderful job they do to feed kids every day. We assembled a group of young people, children, students of all ages from the Oxford schools to come together and they did a song that was entitled, “We Want to Thank You for What You Do.” It was another one of those wonderful, heartwarming experiences, because we had a child in a wheelchair. We had preschool children. We had high school children who were singing to the school nutrition people. So the first satellite seminar was a real success. As I indicated there were skeptics who said it couldn’t be done. Dr. Phillips and I decided we would make a real show of it on the campus. And we staged it in a small auditorium on campus and invited everyone on campus to come to the first showing of the satellite program. We must have had 100 people there from the campus to look at it, and it was, “I can’t believe they did that. I can’t believe it. Look at this. It is happening!” We truly were so excited. We had a very organized system set up of sending out, in advance, the schedule for the meetings, the coordinates that would have to be used in order to download the satellite. We had an arrangement from the states where the satellite seminars would be delivered. We sent advance material so that the participants in the seminar would have some worksheets to follow along as the satellite seminars progressed. So it was a very organized approach to training and a very successful approach since 1992 or 1993, and has been streamlined and sophisticated and is much, much better now than it was. But it was great at that time. The concept really worked. Now, with the advent of the Web, we can do so much more. As you know the Institute is still doing them, but now people can go to their computers and download practically everything right from the computers and see it in their living rooms or schools or whatever. The Institute has taken great advantage of technology to make training available to the people. And you are continuing to do this, to set up your professional development system so that people can have a planned program if they want to become an expert in nutrition. They can go and take the courses that you have developed in nutrition. If they want to become expert in facilities and equipment they can concentrate on looking into all of the in-service and the continuing education programs that you have developed there. Or procurement, or whatever their needs are, they can go straight to the Institute and develop a specialization in one of four or five different areas that you have in your curriculum outline. You know, that is just really moving us into the future. The key to the future has to be people. We can have all of the grandiose ideas, but if we don’t have the people who are trained to do it, if they don’t have the resources to do it, it won’t happen. But you are down there. You are providing the resources. You are providing the training. The Institute is that important link. It is just as important as the many other things that are coming out of the congressional legislation. When I think of qualifications and competence I think the Institute is our link to the future. The value of that organization is yet to be realized. Even though it is now going on twenty, the future is unknown. It is going to take visionary leadership, just like it currently has, to move it on beyond where it is today. It is like one local director said to me, “I am better than I was yesterday, but not as good as I will be tomorrow.” That is what the Institute is. It is better than it was yesterday, but not as good as it is going to be tomorrow.
CO: Dr. Martin, thank you for sharing that about the very beginnings of the Institute, and I do know the importance of the leadership you provided in helping us get started, and we are very excited about the opportunities we have used to use technology to make all of our services available to 100% of the school and child care people out there if they want to take advantage of it. We are certainly looking for ways to assist them and let them know we are here. Thank you so much for your leadership. We are still working on that good foundation that you set.
JM: Whatever was accomplished during those five years that I was at the Institute was team effort. You were part of that team. You joined us in 1995. You weren’t there for a lot of the time that I was there, but you were part of the team. When I went down there 1991 there was really a lot of skepticism throughout the nation about whether or not we could really pull off a national institute from any place, but particularly because the Institute was established in Mississippi, whether it could be established or not. We had great support from the Lyceum, from the Chancellor, from the Vice-Chancellor for the establishment of the Institute. We could not have had better support than we had, because they wanted to see it succeed. Every member of the staff there, even though it was a small staff, gave their hearts and souls and burned the midnight oil. Whether it was Carolyn Hopkins or Jim Reeves or Laverne Hellums or Beverly Cross, they gave everything to the development of the Institute. They were just going to show that we could do it, and we did it, and we felt so good every time we had one minor accomplishment. There was another reason that we had to give it what we had. When it was established in 1989 it was a discretionary program, so we only had four years to prove that this Institute was worth becoming permanent, worth receiving permanent funding. So we knew we had to see it established and recognized nationally by the state people and the local people as a national institute that would give them help. We had that in front of us. We were also very fortunate that we had Senator Thad Cochran’s support for the Institute, because he is the person who introduced the legislation to authorize the Institute. Then, for the 1994 Reauthorization Bill, Senator Cochran’s staff worked very closely with us and modified and expanded the role of the Institute so when the 1994 Reauthorization Bill was passed the Institute became permanent. It had permanent funding. Another thing that was added in the 1994 Reauthorization Bill was that the USDA was directed to enter into cooperative agreements with the Institute, so that the Institute could assist USDA in carrying out some of its projects. That was a very important part. And to this day that provision still exists, and I am sure that many people who might see this oral history will know some of those valuable things that the USDA has worked with the Institute to have accomplished. So the Institute has served and is serving an extremely valuable purpose, and will continue to serve that. One of the real important things that the Division of Applied Research has done that has become so well known throughout the nation is the research that it has done to establish competencies for foodservice directors, for foodservice managers, and now for foodservice assistants. So when local agencies, even colleges and universities, need to look at the qualifications that are needed for these people – What kind of training do we need to provide for these people? – they look to the Institute’s competency-based training and the qualifications that the Institute has established. And that has been used extensively in publications and organizations throughout the nation. Another thing that the Institute is continuing to do is to stay on the cutting edge. These programs are changing drastically. I mentioned the 2004 reauthorization with the local wellness policies and what you are doing there. But also the Institute is responding to social and environmental changes that are taking place. For example, after 9/11 there was a real concern about emergency management. The Institute was very quick to respond in developing some training programs for the local school people, the directors, to use in training their site-based personnel and in getting prepared for any type of emergency issue, whether it is a 9/11 or whether it is a Katrina or the recent tornadoes or the recent floods that we have had in the upper Midwest, the Institute is responding to the immediate needs of the school nutrition people. It doesn’t take them five years to get something off the ground. They respond. It’s just like instant coffee. You tell us you need it, we’ll give it to you. So that’s very important.
CO: Well, there are a lot of exciting things that are happening in the programs today. Can you think of some other examples of things that you have been involved in that you see have real promise for the future as well?
JM: As I mentioned early on, my life in child nutrition was so closely associated with the professional organization, the American School Food Service Association. But one of the basic beliefs of the State Department of Education was that I was brought up with was that we have to work together with all of those organizations that have the power to influence what happens in school nutrition. We work with education organizations. We work with nutrition organizations. We work with parent organizations. The experience that I had as a young child nutrition professional and working collaboratively to get things done was extremely important, just as the public policy aspect of what I had done. As I worked in the Association and in the Department, it was my privilege to also become very much involved in the Association where I served as the chairman of the state directors section. We were able to work very closely with the public policy organization, the Association, to get some legislation that would support – for example, in the early sixties, we did not get any federal money to help support state agencies. The only administrative money that the state agencies had was the money that the state department provided. That was pretty limited. But we were able to get into the 1966 legislation money for state administration, working with the Association if that was to happen. One of the things that I think is very important to understand is that the state professional associations and the state education associations should be working very closely together because they are both designed for the same purpose, and that is to have healthy meals and to learn healthy food habits. The professional association had the additional responsibility of meeting the qualification and educational needs of the personnel who are members of that association. That is a goal of the state agency to train people to be qualified, to meet the needs. So their purposes are very much aligned, and the two organizations within any state or at the national level should be working together to align their activities. However, because of the nature of both organizations, regulatory organizations such as a state agency cannot do certain kinds of things, and a professional organization is not in the position to do certain kinds of things. But we have to share our resources and as such, if you have an idea, if I have an idea, we both work together to come up with a better idea, and then we have three ideas. That is why we are so dependent upon other people working together collaboratively at every level. The Georgia Department of Education believed in collaboration. I was brought up believing it was as much my responsibility to go to the meetings of the Georgia Association of Educators or the Georgia Nutrition Council or the Georgia Dietetic Association as they wanted us to go out and do training for child nutrition people because it is all working together where we can get it done.