Serving up Quality Meals and Nutrition Education at the Department of Juvenile Justice

Full Transcript

Dalia  0:00 

Hi everybody. Thank you for joining me for another episode of School Nutrition Dietitian. If you're anything like me, you're always interested to know how other food service operations are run. This episode, Stephanie Hennessy from the Department of Juvenile Justice is here to help us do just that. You may be surprised to learn how much her operation is like your own. Okay, let's jump right in.

 

Theme Song  0:21 

[Theme music] School Nutrition Dietitian; here on a mission to show you fruits and vegetables can be super delicious. Eating healthy keeps you healthy on the inside, keep your stomach satisfied, and keep a clear mind. Now you're ready for your academics. Focused, time to handle business. Breakfast, you don't want to miss it. Help your body to replenish. Clean food, clear mind; that is the vision. Tune in to the School Nutrition Dietitian. [Fade]

 

Dalia  0:56 

Hi, Stephanie. Thank you so much for coming on with me today.  I know you've got a busy schedule. But thanks for carving out some time for us. Before we get into what you're doing now, can you tell me a little bit about what interested you in nutrition and diabetics in the first place?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  1:16 

Sure, I think I am- I kind of meandered through my undergraduate career for a little while trying to figure out what exactly it was that I wanted to do. But I had lost a lot of weight. And I was just very inundated with nutrition and exercise all the time, kind of just in the media and researching and magazines and whatnot. And it just kind of clicked one day that I was thinking, "Well, I do this in my free time anyway, why not like, learn about it and then become a professional." And so when I started out, I was very fitness-focused and really, weight management-focused. But as I got more into the dietetic program, I realized it was much bigger than that. And everything just kind of took hold from there.

 

Dalia  2:03 

With you starting out with more of that interest in fitness, do you still find yourself drawn to that as your primary passion or not so much?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  2:15 

You know, it's funny, because I find it to be fascinating and interesting. But I also find it very irritating. Like, here's just so much out there all the time. And I think people, especially online, are just so inundated with fads and the latest diet and at some point it was just like this is too taxing. I can't do this. I'm very- I'm really interested in what's going on. And I try to keep up with the research. But I realized pretty quickly that, I don't know, sometimes it just felt like fighting a losing battle. And I didn't feel that passionately about it. I guess that's not true. I felt passionately about it. But I just didn't know if I wanted to make it my life's work. So it's more like a personal hobby for that fitness and nutrition aspect of it. And just didn't really want to make it my career path.

 

Dalia  3:08 

Yeah, that makes sense. Sometimes it feels like you're throwing pearls before swine, like when you're trying to convince people that they should listen to the evidence-based solution to their problem. And they're like, "No, no, but I want to just like try the sunflower seed only diet for a couple of weeks and see what happens." Just seems like you're begging people sometimes to listen, so... I can get that.

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  3:34 

Yeah, I can't I can't compete with Dr. Oz. I do not have that TV personality. So, I just let that ride. People do what they want. And everybody's happy.

 

Dalia  3:43 

Yeah, exactly. So what pathway did you take to your internship?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  3:48 

So I decided to go ahead and go straight through Georgia State. I did my undergraduate there. And then I immediately enrolled in the coordinated program. And I just chose to do that because I felt like the dietetic internship, I think, when I started, I wasn't fully aware of, you know, you have to pay for some of these internships and placement rates can be lower than anticipated based on the number of professors and it just felt a little intimidating. And at the same time, I knew that the dietetics profession was moving towards, you know, a requirement for masters and I wanted to, you know, it's something that I wanted to do for myself. And I really loved Georgia State, so kind of an easy decision for me to go ahead straight through to the coordinated program with the internship and the Masters coursework was all rolled into one.

 

Dalia  4:39 

Okay, that totally makes sense. Do you have students now at your current job? Do you have interns?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  4:47 

So, it's something we're looking into. Initially, there were some concern, I guess, like the Georgia State legal program, and our legal division just couldn't come to an agreement about a couple of like nuanced things that back in the day were an issue. But then, you know, so much has changed and time has passed. So, it's something that my director and I have talked about taking on preceptor because this is such a unique environment- or, I'm sorry, becoming preceptor and taking on interns, because it's such a unique environment, and it's a really neat environment to share with dieticians, or upcoming dietitians.

 

Dalia  5:22 

Yeah, I think food service in general seems to really be underrepresented and a lot of programs. When you were doing your practice hours, did you get a lot of food service exposure?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  5:35 

Uhm, like, a little bit. I remember, senior connections was one of my food service rotations. So that was like, food service and community. I didn't get a ton of exposure, but it was definitely there. And you know, there was some coursework and undergraduate and graduate, I believe, that did focus on food service. So, my exposure was limited, but it was definitely present. And I kind of connected with it. I felt like, "I get this," like, I kind of grew with this, but it was, I guess it's pretty limited.

 

Dalia  6:09 

Yeah. So, that's when your interest was really sparked and moving in your current direction?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  6:16 

Truly at that, I don't even know why I didn't think of that. I think that the- at the time, it was like, "Oh, yeah, there's good service. And I think I'm pretty good at this. And I can do the numbers. And I can look at the layout of the kitchen. And I like to cook," but it just didn't, like connect with me that this is what I would end up doing. I was so much more clinical-focused, because dietetics is so you know, science-based. And so I just felt like, "Well, to make the most of this, I need to be in clinical," which is what I ended up starting out to do. So, I was all on board with, I'm going to be a clinical dietitian forever," when I first got out of college.

 

Dalia  6:53 

That- I feel like that's what almost everyone pictures themselves doing. And I don't know if it's just, like you said, the focus on the sciences. And once you struggle- well not that everybody struggles, I struggled in medical bio-chem.

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  7:07 

I struggled. [Laughter] Yea, I struggled.

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  7:10 

When you go through that, it's like, "Well, I'm going to be doing two things, for sure, because there's no reason for me to learn all that if I'm just gonna be like in the kitchen. But-

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  7:20 

Yeah, I didn't cry over a pile of books for nothing. So, I'm using this!

 

Dalia  7:26 

Yeah, I had, like, no exposure, really to food service before I did my school nutrition rotation. So, how did you end up in your current job?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  7:39 

Well, I went into acute care, I went into acute-care and long-term care. And it was miserable. It was like, there was sad, I mean, it was sad work to do, because you're in a long-term care facility. And the location that I was at was not run well, and I think it makes a really big difference when you go into a nursing home that's run well, and you see people being treated well, and you see them like thriving in their own right. And then you go to places like where I went, and I like I didn't have a super easy time getting a job, I want to say that I after I took my exam, I think it was like three months before I got a job. And I'm like sweating it over here. My student loans are about to be due. And I hadn't had a single offer. And I had interviewed and submitted resumes. And they offered me a job at this, this long-term and acute-care facility. And, of course, the wages were pretty low, pretty low, a little bit of shell-shock happen when I got the offer, I was like, "I gotta take this, you know, I don't really have much of an option otherwise," and there was some food service that was kind of rolled into this position. So, I'm thinking, "Okay, get a little bit of food service experience." I know that food service- oh, I had discovered food service paid a little bit more. And after that, I started working, I gave it my best shot, I really learned a lot. But it was just, I mean, I was miserable. I was miserable every day, like you think I forgot what it felt like to have a good day.

 

Dalia  9:19 

Oh, no! How long did you make it-

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  9:22 

At that point I was- like, like a year and a half on it. Not, like I got my chops, you know, and I remember. So, I started looking for a job. And I was like, honestly, I was applying for anything that was out there. And I remember some of my final days in that long-term care facility where we're doing like a clinical kind of a meeting where I had to transition all the patients out say, you know, what was going on with everybody, and I'm standing out there and I'm like saying all this stuff and become a rock star. I know all this information. I know all these cases, and I kinda had second thoughts about it. And then I just realized, like, this isn't for me, there was no growth within that clinical position. The pay wasn't ever going to get better. And so I got a call from Department of Juvenile Justice to come be the Registered Dietitian, create menus, run the National School Lunch Program, do medical nutrition therapy diets for the youth. And I was like, "I don't know what this job is. But, I'm going for it." And I interviewed and I got it. That was kind of the end. And I never went back to clinical.

 

Dalia  10:31 

Oh, see, that's exciting. I know that if the facilities run well, long-term care could be probably better. But I don't think it's ever going to be a happy place. I don't think it's a place for sensitive people or any kind of an empath at all; you cannot stay in a place like that. Like it's-

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  10:53 

Yeah, it was-

 

Dalia  10:55 

This is overwhelming.

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  10:58 

Yeah, it was a- it was a struggle. And I didn't connect well with the leadership there, the director and I just, I think we were both kind of hard-headed. And if you don't have good a good relationship with leadership, where you're going to be doing a job that's emotionally pretty taxing, like, you can just kind of leave right then because you don't have that support. It's a- it's a hard, hard place to be.

 

Dalia  11:23 

Right. So, in your current job, what does an average day look like for you? It sounds like you've got a lot that was supposed to be in your arena, even before you got there. But, I'm sure, once you get in it, it expands and is even more than that. So, what does an average day look like for you?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  11:41 

Well, I feel like, I mean, it changed so much. So, I started there as a Registered Dietitian, and where I was literally just creating a four-week cycle menu that repeated for the entire school year. And for the detention center, the school year is essentially like, July to June, I mean, it's a full year-round. So, all I had to do is make this like four-week cycle menu and make special diets for kids with allergies. And so it started off as being like, totally different environment, but pretty smooth sailing. And what I realized is that, or maybe not what I realized, but what started happening was restructuring started to occur kind of without much of a input from our department, it just sort of happened. And suddenly we had, "Well, you're the dietitian, but would you like to be a regional, like a regional food service administrator?" And that was, that's when my food service experience started to really ramp up. So, I went to food service as a regional, which is a total different day in the life of and now I am the Chief of Nutrition and Food Services. So, now I'm over a regional so a day in my life is like, right now we're trying to hire a new regional, other days, I'm out at facilities with my regionals to train and oversee and prepare for audits. And, I'm all over the board. It's fast paced, it's really variable, but we're, I'm doing a lot.

 

Dalia  13:16 

So, it's more leadership now than like MNT. And nutrition-focused things.

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  13:24 

Yeah, I think that is one of the really unique things about food service for a dietitian, specifically, is that the growth opportunity is really stupendous. Like, I started out as a dietitian making the menus and then I'm going out to facilities and overseeing, you know, the day-to-day and now I'm over the people that are overseeing. So, the leadership opportunities were like, they just kind of sprouted it up. And it was excellent. I mean, it's, it's taught me so much, and I'm still learning every day, and there's still opportunity for growth. So, yeah.

 

Dalia  13:58 

You said, before you even ended up here, you knew that you enjoyed cooking. So, was there anything else that you already had, like in your tool kit, that has been applicable that you didn't realize would be handy?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  14:15 

I think, I think that I'm the kind of person that sees the process and can just kind of mentally calculate how to make it move more fluidly, and how to, like, see it just move more efficiently. And, in food services that has been really helpful and really impactful. I mean, things as far as watching our food service staff, you know, serve trays and being able to say, "Hey, put this here, put, put this cold tray or the cold pan before your hot pan or put your buttons here." And things as simple as that and things as complicated as we need to restructure this dry storage area to make it more, to flow better, to improve efficiency, that kind of stuff has, had been really beneficial to me. And it's not really a skill that I would have ever thought I was able to, you know, make part of my career. But here we are.

 

Dalia  15:12 

Right. Now, for people who struggle with things like that, because that is crucial, and I think, a friend of mine was talking about a- basically like a productivity study that they did at a place she worked, where because people didn't have that skill, they had to pay a consultant to come in to show them where they were expending energy and kind of wasting time with the way they'd structured their kitchen and the movements that people were having to make. If somebody doesn't have a budget for that, do you know of any resources you would recommend for how to close that gap or how to identify a problem?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  15:58 

I think, honestly, I don't know, of like a specific, you know, profession that can help with that. I know that our equipment vendors will come in and look at your kitchen and tell you like, "I think you could have better efficiency. If you put this equipment here," or there are like fabricators that will come in and say, "I think we can change the way that this steam table is arranged or the way that these prep tables are arranged. And we can, you know, fabricate something for you that would work better in this space." So, there are vendors that kind of specialize and they want to sell you equipment. So, they'll be real detailed about, you know, what you might need. But, I think, honestly, to just be able to stand back and be an observer, you probably have, I think people probably possess that skill, if they're able to just stand back and observe to see movements and motions and where you lose efficiency. If you've got the patience for it.

 

Dalia  16:58 

Yeah, okay, that makes sense. And yeah, utilizing the vendors that you're already working with, that really is a good idea. So, what was the onboarding process like for you as you moved up the ranks? Like, when you first came into that initial job, was there already a dietitian there to kind of train you and explain what the limitations were with how National School Lunch meal patterns have to be? Or, what was that like?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  17:28 

Yeah, so um, the, at the time, she was the Administrator of Food Services, and she had just stepped out of the dietitians role to be the administrator over the food service department. And she did, she walked me through it. She was still relatively new to, to this career, also. She's a dietitian, and the change for her happened really quickly. She was the dietitian, and then her administrator left after like six months of her being there. So, there was a lot of quick-paced change, and we- she was an excellent teacher. And we also learned a lot together. She did send me to a new directors orientation with DOE. So, I was able to kind of get a lay of the land because school lunch was not something, that was not a rotation that I did. And I was like, totally, like, just deer in headlights, I got no idea what I was doing. But DOE was, I mean, they're real. They're training resources are like some of the best that I've ever seen. So, between her and DOE kind of leading me through it, I feel like I got a pretty good, a pretty good lay of the land.

 

Dalia  18:39 

Okay, awesome. And as you moved on up, then, there was always, the predecessor was available?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  18:47 

Yeah, pretty much. But you know, and I think this happens a lot with dietitians, specifically, and maybe other professions, too, you kind of end up making your own role. And having like the background that we have, where I, in the coordinated program, I had taken an entrepreneurship class that I had, you know, just a little bit of a business background, like what some of those tools and I talked about, like, I just felt like I was able to grab from a lot of my education or internship experience and kind of put together something that I thought looked like something that our regional food service administrator could use. So, we ended up actually writing the job description for the Regional Food Service Administrator that I stepped into, and same for the chief role when it was created. So, it helps to define your own role. And kind of gives you a good vantage point of what you're going to be doing when you're the one defining it. So, and we've just, my director and I just kind of build these processes together, and there's a lot of self-training and you learn from the people that you're working with. Our food service directors were monumentally helpful to, to help train us about what we needed to know to help them.

 

Dalia  20:06 

Yeah. And I am noticing that as you move up, and you're not just looking at entry-level positions anymore, the expectation to train yourself and to be someone who can learn as you go, definitely increases as your responsibilities increase. So that all makes sense.

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  20:27 

Oh, yeah, for sure.

 

Dalia  20:29 

It's a little, it's a little unsettling at first when it first happened. So, they're just like, "Good luck, read the Code of Federal Regulations." You're just like, "Hey, we're going to do this." But, it makes sense. I mean, we're competent professionals, we know how to read, we can sit down and we can figure it out ourselves. It is nice sometimes to have both the option to train yourself a little and consult with a mentor, somebody with more experience. It sounds like you've been lucky to have both. What some of the differences do you think between DJJ and National School Lunch Program? I was looking, I mean, in public schools settings? I was looking at the menus online, and it looked like you guys serve three meals a day and two snacks. Is that right? How many meals do you feed the kids a day?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  21:21 

Yeah, it's three meals and three snacks a day. So, we do participate in the school breakfast and school lunch program, and we also participate and the aftercare program for the after school snack, and then we serve dinner and an am and pm snacks that are non-reimbursible. And you know, that's, that's just something we're paying for. We do it serve instead of offer versus serve, because the kids get what's on their tray, they don't really have a way to be able to select options. So, that's, that's the primary difference between a traditional public school and, and DJJ.

 

Dalia  22:02 

Is that also an option, because you guys always have mixed age groups together grade levels, all together? Or is that just a special exception for DJJ?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  22:15 

I think, it's think it's primarily because most of the kids are high school age, we don't have a whole lot of middle school age kids. So, because it's primarily high school, I'm not sure that that's, I don't know that it's required that you do offer versus serve, if that's what you're asking.

 

Dalia  22:35 

Well, my understanding was the only time it's mandatory, is just at lunch, and just for high schoolers. But I know they're typically exceptions to all of these rules, like if it just doesn't make any sense for your facility. And I just wondered why everyone, probably just doesn't make sense for this setting.

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  22:57 

Yeah, that is, that is probably why and it's probably is because of the mix of age, but I do know that we predominantly have high school age youth in our custody.

 

Dalia  23:06 

Now, do you guys also have wellness or athletic programs that run there, too? What other things go on DJJ that affect, like what the kids would like to be eating or their, you know, appetites?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  23:23 

So, I mean, I think primarily at the kind of consider that these kids are, you know, they're not at home, they're, this is scary, this is stressful. And they like something has been, like their choice of what to eat isn't present the way that it used to be. And people are so connected with the food that they eat, it's really driven our department to make sure that we are honoring and providing options and honoring what the kids like. So, we- our dietitian goes out to facilities and does like little focus groups with our kids to say, you know, "What do you like on the menu? What do you not like on the menu?" And we try to tailor it so that the kids are getting food that they like, because they have a lot of recreation programs, you know, they're, they're having, you know, they've got basketball courts, they've got time out in like multipurpose areas. And we have recreation employees that are there specifically to have rec time so that the kids can be engaged and physically active. So I mean, I think what drives that appetite is these are growing children, and they're hungry, and they want to eat because it's comforting. They want to eat food that tastes good, because it's comforting, and they're in a stressful situation. And they are physically active, and they do have opportunities to participate in recreation. And that's going to drive an appetite as well.

 

Dalia  24:54 

Do you guys incorporate any nutrition education components into your program there? Or is that something that's done, like more by some academic area of the facility?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  25:10 

So, we have, when we do the after school snack program, you know, we have the requirement that there's some kind of engagement and a wellness activity. So, a couple of years ago, probably now, our dietitian created this huge database of like educational videos and activities, and topics for the educators like and the Georgia Preparatory Academy is the school that operates within the facility. And they have access to this database so that they can provide wellness education to the youth after the school day is officially over. And that's when we're serving that after school snack. So every day, every school day, the kids are getting kind of a dose of regimented wellness education.

 

Dalia  25:55 

Okay, awesome. So, are there any projects that you guys are working on right now that you're really excited about?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  26:04 

Yes, this is like the most exciting thing. There's going to be a ribbon cutting. We're really pumped about this. Our dietitian has taken a much more active role in applying for grants and one of our facilities in Norris, West Georgia and Dalton won a grant to do an aquaponic garden. And this is a facility that already had the kids engaged in like doing gardening activities, like they're growing food, like they're, they're serving the kids food that we're growing in a garden, which is just amazing. And so therapeutic and, and such a happy thing to happen for the kids. And so this aquaponics grant happening for them, our dietitians up there all the time helping them plan, you know, how this is going to work. They've got buy-in from, I think it's a woman at a college nearby that's assisting with the setup of this. And I should know so many more details about this. But, I think maybe like got the tank setup. And they're going to have this whole aquapoinic feature ready to rock and roll. I think they put the fish in either this week or next week. So, participating in these grants has been awesome. We've got culinary programs that are happening at a couple of our facilities where the kids are getting kind of like training in the culinary arts, and they've got to that they're building a skill for themselves. You know, as individuals, and as, you know, people that are going to be part of the workforce one day, so there's some really awesome programs that are going on too, to educate, rehabilitate, and you know, provide skills for these kids.

 

Dalia  27:47 

That sounds really cool. I was going to ask like if there was any sort of culinary ed. So, is that like an elective, or that's just an additional activity that they can volunteer to be part of that's specifically with the nutrition department?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  28:03 

So, it's actually not run by our department, we're kind of assisting with like the procurement of food and small wears for them to use. But the culinary department, I believe falls under the education department. So, they've hired their own staff to go ahead and do that. And we're going to try to get more involved just because, you know, with an area of expertise for us, and our dietitian has been involved with that. And she's been helping, you know, design menu and information and stuff, so, so our department would like to be more involved. And our dietitian is already bridging that gap for us. But, it's mostly run by the education department.

 

Dalia  28:44 

That's exciting though the, to see the collaboration. So, are there other like external stakeholders that you have collaborated with? Or I just feel like most people don't know what goes on at DJJ? We get these people kids back, like where do these kids go later, I didn't even know the facilities were connected at all. I thought everything was run by the city that it was in. So, how many facilities are in your region basically?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  29:15 

So, Georgia is unique. And Georgia is, from what I understand, one of the only states where all of the youth detention centers are state-run. So, we've called around to other states to find out, you know, what are you guys doing for your youth detention centers, like how are you operating them, and most of them, they're either privately run or run by the county or run by, you know, the city and, and so we're really unique, and that the state runs all of our facilities. And we have youth, the regional youth detention centers and youth detention centers. And the regional youth detention centers are where our kids are going to await adjudication to define it up, they'll have a sentence or whatnot. And then if they are sentenced, they'll go to a youth detention center where they, they serve that sentence out. So, those are longer-term facilities. And that's where we're doing some of our culinary programs, and there are other vocational programs at those facilities. Because what we're trying to do is rehabilitate these kids and provide them with skills so that when they do go back out into the community, they're, they're leaving with more than they, then they came in with, you know, they're leaving with skills, they're leaving with, you know, a sense of accomplishment, or, you know, just more self-worth when they're, when they're leaving our facilities.

 

Dalia  30:31 

And I imagine that the focus would be more on rehabilitation with kids than maybe sometimes with adults, because when they get out their records will be sealed or not necessarily?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  30:46 

I honestly, I'm not sure. But I can tell you, our behavioral health department is just like cutting-edge, they're doing some mind-blowingly amazing things. And they are totally focused on rehabilitating these kids, like giving them a fighting chance when they get out, get out, you know, addressing mental health issues and, and providing them with, you know, like some help to exit and, and assimilate back safely into the community.

 

Dalia  31:12 

Do you feel like there is a belief there that there is a correlation between how the children are fed and their mood management and their academic achievement? Or is there that holistic view?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  31:27 

Oh, for sure. I mean, if the kids are not satisfied and fed well, you know, they can't pay attention. And we know that, even I mean, that's why they have the after school snack program. That's why they have the School Breakfast Program, there's so much research to show that hungry kids are not focused kids, and hungry kids are not, you know, they might not make as good of a decision as a kid that's well fed. So. So, we certainly believe that there's a correlation between a good nutritious meal and a full belly and the ability to make the decisions and to stay focused and to learn.

 

Dalia  32:02 

Yeah, that makes sense. So, all of the kids that are there while they're under your care, it's basically the parents are not responsible for paying for any of the meals, you just, everything is CEP or how does the reimbursement work? Does it depend on the income levels?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  32:19 

No, we're 100% covered, we're 100% reimbursable, because these kids are staying with us where we operate as a residential childcare institution. So, the parents are not responsible for any of the, any of the cost of meals or anything like that.

 

Dalia  32:37 

Does that mean you have to plan some of the meals under NSLP and some under CA, CSP, or it's all the same meal pattern?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  32:48 

Well, we actually looked into doing the APS P. But because we get reimbursed for breakfast lunch, and after school snack, I think we're only eligible to cover one additional snack through CA, CSP. And we just kind of found this out again, I guess some guidelines have changed over the last five years or so. And we're kind of reconnecting with the CA CSP to see how we can be involved. But as of right now, we're just operating under NSLP guidelines.

 

Dalia  33:19 

It's, there's so much to keep up with, how are you keeping track of like all the regulations? Do you sometimes have to wait until the situation arises and then start looking for regulations? Or do you have a system?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  33:37 

Well, so it's hard, it's there's so many regulations, especially in an industry like ours, and corrections, because we're talking about like taking care of these human beings like full time. So, we comply with, so we're looking to be accredited by the American Corrections Association, we'd like for all of our facilities to be accredited by that. So, that's like a laundry list of standards and guidelines to meet. And luckily, the standards and guidelines of a lot of these accrediting agencies and National School Lunch Program and Department of Public Health, a lot of them kind of meet in the middle in some way and overlap quite a bit. But we do, we do our homework. I mean, we have our ACA, American Corrections Association, we have those guidelines, friends that are all the time and we have our Department of Public Health guidelines, I have the whole food code bookmarked in my documents, I have our policy and procedure, everything bookmarked, and we created an audit tool that combines all of those different standards so that we know exactly what they're looking for. And I will tell you the hardest one to comply with is the Department of Public Health. It's like, we'll find out about a new training that's required or something by a health inspector, that's inspecting a facility, but we don't always know about it before it happened.

 

Dalia  35:06 

Do you feel like they kind of forget about you guys?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  35:08 

I, you know, I don't know, I think what's happening is that because we're spread out all over across the state. It might be that different counties have slightly different requirements for this training, or that training and whatnot. And what may happen is that what, you know, City of Atlanta, or the you know, the Dekalb County Board of Health might require that we do this food allergy test. And by the, I don't know, Intel Health Department might say, "Well, you're required to do this other training." So, it might just be a regional thing, I don't really know. But we have news, Ellen Steinberg, the food safety specialist with Department of Education is like our own personal savior on a regular basis, trying to walk us through whatever the Department of Public Health is rolling out. So, she's been a great resource. And that's one of the ways that we've stayed on top of this stuff, honestly, because there's always a new question coming up, there's always something that we didn't know we didn't know. And we have to reach out to somebody for help. So it's, it's been awesome to have some, a resource out there that's as knowledgeable as she is.

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  35:20 

I'm interested to hear that people who are years into their career, that are established, that are higher up in their organization still have that, that sense that there's always something coming up, that you didn't know that you have to add, because I know sometimes coming into a new work environment, you can be intimidated. Everyone is so knowledgeable and you may feel like, I don't know, like that imposter syndrome may creep up on you. And you're like, "I shouldn't reach out for more responsibility, because I don't know everything yet." But, you've really, you will never know everything, especially in this field. I feel like things are always improving. So, that means change is constant. So, yeah, you'll always have something else to learn. I don't think we'll ever be done.

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  37:07 

Oh, yeah. The minute you think you know everything, you played yourself, because you'll be in for a rude awakening the minute you try to like school somebody and they're like, actually, you're wrong. And you feel real silly. I mean, it's just part of the game, you know, to always be learning and to know you don't know everything.

 

Dalia  37:24 

I think said, I went to a training and there was someone there who had graciously like, let me shadow them pretty early on. And they asked how things were going. And I was tired of hearing myself say like, "Oh my gosh, I'm so overwhelmed. I don't know what's happening. Where am I?" So, I just said, "Oh, I think I had everything under control." And she just looked at me like, "Oh, I hope you're just saying that. Like, I hope you know that that's impossible." I am universal. Yeah. If you think you've got it all together there. You're, you're confused. Something is not right there.

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  38:05 

Yeah.

 

Dalia  38:06 

So, I haven't-

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  38:06 

Yes, you are confused.

 

Dalia  38:07 

I haven't been through an auditing experience yet. So, what has it been like going through an audit? Like, do you guys you also do the administrative reviews? Is that the right?

 

Dalia  38:19 

Yeah, it's the administrative review from, from Department of Education, oh, we just had our AR. And it's really stressful. It is like, I mean, it's another one of those instances of, "Oh, my God, I had no idea that we didn't know all this information," but our area consultant was super helpful. Walked us through everything, anytime we had a question, I think. So, one thing that I do realize about audits is, as stressful and scary as they can seem, the reason that you're being audited is to make sure that you're in compliance. And if you're not in compliance, it's not like anybody's trying to punish you. They're trying to help you be better. So, going through the AR review, we realize we're actually much more prepared than, then maybe we were concerned, you know, what if we don't know this, what if we don't know that, but we were actually quite prepared. And I'm sure our area consultant was like, "Please, God, stop texting me, stop calling me." But we, you know, you just need to do those things to make sure that you feel comfortable and confident with where you are, and then going through the actual audit itself. So, a lot more comforting because we had been so connected with our governing agency throughout the process. Of course, like, I'm not, it's a very, very intimidating, but they really go out of their way to make you feel comfortable and confident. And sometimes that concern and stress is a little bit self-imposed. But it was, it was good. I mean, our audit experience was good. And it reinforced that we're doing the right thing and, and reinforced that we had a really good support system and Department of Education.

 

Dalia  40:04 

That's definitely the sense I'm getting.We're going into an audit year next year. And I, one of my big concerns is just that maybe I am not storing information in one spot that I will need or wish I kept all in one spot. But I guess I'll know, by the end of the year I'll probably have a new strategy about how I'm going to organize some of my things because when I got there, our, the last dietitian had been gone for like a year and a half. But everyone talked about her like she had just left. But when I called her she was really helpful over the phone. But some of the questions she was like, "Do you realize how long it's been since I've been there?" So yeah. So...

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  40:06 

Yeah, gaps in employment pose a problem when you're talking about having to have five years worth of documentation of anything?

 

Dalia  41:00 

Exactly!

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  41:00 

Yeah, it's a struggle.

 

Dalia  41:02 

Like you said, it'll be a learning experience, they're there to help, they're there to help us be better. We all want to be responsible with taxpayer dollars. So, and we all have the same mission, we're trying to take care of our kids the best way that we can. And we want all these kids to be better for having had some kind of interaction with us. So, I just have to remember the point of it and not completely freak myself out. Thank you so much for coming on. I feel like I got, I have a way better idea of what goes on over there. Is there anything people don't understand about DJJ that you wish everybody understood or knew?

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  41:42 

Yeah, I think that we really battle the stigma of like prison food and the food that we serve the kids is so good. I mean, it's like, I eat the food there and my regionals eat the food, like I had a burger yesterday and like better than a burger that you get at like a fast-food restaurant and, and I wish that that stigma would, would go away that you know, this, it's prison food because it's nutritious, and follows formula guidelines. The kids enjoy it, it's fulfilling, and you know, we really want to shake that, that stigma, prison food and like, this is good food, this is better food then a lot of us get on a regular basis. So, you know, it's good food, and these kids are there, they're kids that have a lot of goodness and, and, and promise in them and, and they deserve to eat a great meal, just like the rest of us.

 

Dalia  42:35 

Thank you so much for coming on. That was great.

 

Stephanie Henesy, MS, RD, LD  42:39 

Yeah, thank you, Dalia.

 

Dalia  42:43 

Is it just me? Or was it totally fascinating to learn how many enrichment activities are available for these students around food and nutrition? That's really exciting. So, as usual, if you didn't get a chance to take notes, don't worry, I've done that for you. Please visit the website and join the mailing list. It's the best way to keep up with all that's going on in relation to the podcast and any other projects I'm working on. And I also want to thank people who've already taken the time to like and review the podcast on iTunes. That really helps with visibility. So, thank you so much. If you haven't had a chance to do that yet, please consider it. Okay you guys, have a great week.

 

Theme Song  43:25 

[Theme music] School Nutrition Dietitian; here on a mission to show you fruits and vegetables can be super delicious. Eating healthy keeps you healthy on the inside, keep your stomach satisfied, and keep a clear mind. Now you're ready for your academics. Focused, time to handle business. Breakfast, you don't want to miss it. Help your body to replenish. Clean food, clear mind; that is the vision. Tune in to the School Nutrition Dietitian. [Fade]