Building Menus that Celebrate Diversity and Inclusion

Full Transcript

Dalia 0:00 

Hi everyone! You are in for a treat today. This interview is super long, but I think you'll get a lot out of it. I am just in love with Jose Quinones. He is so knowledgeable and you can just feel his love and care for the industry and the people that he serves comes through and everything that he does. I just had an awesome time talking to him. So, stay tuned if you want to hear about how diversity and inclusion strengthens your program, how you walk the walk through your menu planning, how you can add interest to your menu without adding a lot of sodium, how you get the most out of your inventory. There's a lot here. This man is so knowledgeable and just really interesting to engage with. So, I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did.


Theme Song 1:00 

[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]


Jose Quinones 1:36 

Hello Dalia.


Dalia 1:37 

Hi, Jose, how are you doing?


Jose Quinones 1:40 

I'm doing great. Thank you, and you?


Dalia 1:44 

Really good. I'm so glad to finally have you on the phone. I've really been looking forward to this since I saw you present. I'm like, I need to know at least a fraction of what you now but I had no clue you've been in school nutrition for so long.


Jose Quinones 2:00 

Oh, way too long. I'm telling you, way too long.


Dalia 2:05 

So, maybe should we just jump right into it?


Jose Quinones 2:09 

Yes, yes. I have some notes here. Your questions are amazing, Dalia. Amazing. Really, really good. Really nice.


Dalia 2:18 

Okay, fantastic. I'm looking forward to this. So, let's go ahead and start from the top. How did you end up in school nutrition? What was your educational background? Or what work experiences led you to this point?


Jose Quinones 2:32 

Okay, well, I have a bachelor's degree from 1981 of Food Science and Human Nutrition. From the University of Florida. And believe it or not, I started my career immediately in 1981 as a food, microbiologist, and a food chemist for a few, maybe five or six years, then I moved into operation. Everything has been always in processing places, meaning a meat processing plant, a companies that are always making products all my life since 1981.


Dalia 3:16 

Was that the focus of your degree program too or that was the work that was available for food science?


Jose Quinones 3:22 

Well, no. That is a great question. Actually, the last year of your program, you can either go into be a registered dietitian, or we could go into what they call the processing of the food. And for me was very exciting to go out and see exactly how the food is made, and processed. So, that's why my last year was all more about, you know, food chemistry, food engineer, food microbiologist. So, it was all about food.


Dalia 4:01 

What was your relationship with food and cooking? Like, before you got into the program? Did you already know you were into science? Or you just knew you had an interest in culinary things?


Jose Quinones 4:12 

You know what, I always loved science. We're talking about 1981. If you ever told anybody, even your parents that you wanted to be a chef, they will say, "What are you crazy, right?" I mean, you know, people didn't even talk about chefs, they chefs never had the leverage that they have in today's life. So, I was always intrigued by the nutrition and all that stuff. I said, "Well, I cannot be a chef. So, let me go into the processing of the plate." And then from there, I started to get into research and development, you know, making different products, the packaging, the processing, the cooking, and that was probably like 12, like 12, 14 years. And then you ask me, "How did I end up in sales?" Or should I just wait until the following question?


Dalia 5:10 

Well, yeah, that's a good question. Well, did you participate in National School Lunch? As a kid, like, did you even have school nutrition on your radar?


Jose Quinones 5:21 

You know, what I do up in Puerto Rico until I was 18 years old, and I went to a Catholic, private school. And they actually had lunch, at the beginning of, you know, maybe I think it's from kindergarten, maybe until sixth grade. But it was never like the public schools here in the States. But food was always in the center of our lives being Hispanic, you know, being Puerto Rican. So, I always, always love cooking and always love food, you know, my grandmother in the kitchen, my mother, you know, food is what got family together.


Dalia 6:01 

Right? And how has that influenced how you relate to sales now?


Jose Quinones 6:10 

Well, the deal is it's a funny story, because I was always again, you know, the signs, an operational side, and I worked for a company back in the early 90s, maybe 1995. I don't remember right now. And I worked for a company called International Multi-Foods. They, their sales, people had to do a sales presentation in Mexico. And they, obviously they didn't have anyone that spoke Spanish. And they asked me if I could translate the, you know, the presentation. So, when I translated presentation, when I came back, you know, the President said, "Oh, my God, you need to be in sales." But I remember telling him because it's like a father to me today. You know, I worked with him, for him 20 years. I said, "I will never be in sales. I don't like to beg people to buy stuff." Well, two weeks later, guess what he said, "You're fired from your position. You're going to get into product management, you're going to go back to school, get marketing, and you need to start going into sales, you're missing your, you know, your call." And that's how I started into the sales. I mean, it was in the mid-90s that I worked with a lady coaching Harris, she's still working in the industry. And, at that time, it was it was a subsidiary of IVP and giving you too much information. But we started to sail cold cuts to the schools in the country. That's how I got into the school business, I was more into the retail side, the food service, national accounts in suddenly, it’s like, "Oh, my God, this is amazing." You have these kids that needs to eat every single day. And obviously, their choices were not as good, you know, in the in the 90s. And immediately I think to myself, wait one second. There are Hispanics, everywhere in the country, you know, there are a diversity of cultures. These people need to, we need to start finding problems that these kids are eating at home, or they are related to. And I remember clearly developing a pork roast, a Cuban pork roast. I remember that, when no one even knew what that was.


Dalia 8:39 

That is so funny! Yes, because I see, when I was researching you. And because I had realized that you'd been in nutrition for so long. I can't believe you were doing anything in 1981. Because I was born in 81. And I thought you were like a lot closer to my age. But I have noticed that recently, it seems like there's a sudden awareness about inclusion. But you've been talking about diversity inclusion for years, a lot longer than anyone else. I know of has. My grandma is Cuban, and she moved to the states back when everybody was like, you move to the states and then you never talk about where you're from. And when people ask you about your asset, you just kind of like blow it off. And I, there was no Cuban food at my elementary school. Let me just say that when I was there in the early 80s. And people kept asking me if I even had legal permission to work in the United States. By the time I finished high school, like people still couldn't understand just because your grandma's Cuban doesn't mean that she's not a legal resident, and it doesn't mean that you're not a citizen. So, what was it like for you having that interest in inclusion and diversity before anybody else got on board?


Jose Quinones 9:58 

I want to tell you this. You know, it's amazing what you're telling me. My wife is Cuban, you know, she was born and raised here. But her parents came from Cuba in the early 50s. But I moved, you know, I grew up in Puerto Rico where color was never an issue for anybody. You know what I mean? We were all the same. We were just a whole family, the whole community, you know, the whole town. Yeah, people talk about being poor or being rich. Again, this is way before your time. And by the way, I just want to say something about my age. I've be lying about my age for so long, all Hispanics do. But the deal is that these here, I cannot be lying too much. Because all my good friends knows that this is the big six oh. So, now that I'm telling everybody that this is my big six oh, people say what? How can you be sixty? I thought you were fifty. Or, you know, so...


Dalia 11:02 

That's amazing! Oh, that gives me a lot of hope. I want to be looking fresh in my 60s.


Jose Quinones 11:10 

Well, there you go. Thank you. So, let me tell you, so I moved to Miami in 1977. In 1977, I went to the University of Miami, my first year. And it was a complete culture shock Dalia, because being in Miami University, there was a lot, a lot of Cubans, you know, there, but what I learned really fast. Yes, you know, I got really excited because I went to a school where the books were in English. So, it was really good reading and translating from English to Spanish, but we never really we didn't talk that much in English in the school. So just speaking wasn't good, you know, for me, but I got really excited, "Oh, my God, oh, my God, this is great. I'm going to be able to talk to the people in Spanish while I learn to speak and all that." And let me tell you, it was a huge slap in my life. These people said you don't speak Spanish in public. You know what I mean? You need to speak English. And that's what it is. And that was 1977. And I will tell you from there, I said, "I just don't understand, you know, what is going on here." You know what? So, it really took me a while not to understand but to see that that was the reality, you know, of the culture down here. And it was the same when I went to Gainesville. I mean, you're talking about Gainesville, 1978, 79. You know what I mean, where you really didn't have that many Hispanics there.


Dalia 12:52 



Jose Quinones 12:54 

So, one of the things that I always talk about inclusion, and the diversity and at that point, my me, Dalia, people never really talk about that word inclusion, you know want I mean? I really didn't know the word like they say it today. But I always learned in my heart from my family, you have to accept everybody. You know, they have to be good people. But they are all different. You know what I mean? And I'm not talking about the color. I'm talking about personalities. You know what I mean? Some people are shy, some people are intense. It is what it is.


Dalia 13:33 



Jose Quinones 13:33 

You know what I mean? So, I started to start talking about it, about the diversity. We need to understand the cultures and it was all about the respect and staying true to myself.


Dalia 13:45 

And do you feel like sometimes when people come up against unwelcoming atmospheres, sometimes they even start to lose respect for themselves a little bit? And it becomes difficult for them to be themselves. Like they feel uncomfortable or self-conscious.


Jose Quinones 14:04 

You know, and I want to tell you this, and I keep going back to the early 80s, but I move from Miami, to San Benito, Texas. That is in the southern side of Texas, very close to Brownsville very close an hour, 45 minutes from the border of Mexico. Okay, McAllen, Brownsville, you probably don't know that, you know the geographic on that area. But I'm just trying to tell you that the reason why I moved there is because these companies International Multi-Foods opened a processing plant in San Benito. 99% of the people were Mexicans, okay. But they brought the management from Minneapolis, that's where the headquarters, they were all, you know, white American people, they didn't understand. And that's how I got there. It was extremely, extremely, extremely hard and tough. Because the comments that they will make constantly, on a daily basis, you know, for them, and I hate to talk about those type of things. But, it was that reality. It was demeaning that did management. And I'm not talking about everybody, okay? Most of the people it was that they were lower class, you know what I mean? Because they did not know English, because they were not white American, and, for me was so strong. Immediately, I said, we need to respect the culture of these people. These are the people that are making you look good. And what I'm talking about, be true to yourself. Still today, Dalia don't get mistaken, I do a lot of presentations. But once in a full moon, you will find someone in the audience or someone that works right beside you that will make a comment. And you have to be so strong, to just continue what you're saying, continue walking, and not pay attention. And like I always said, don't get into a fight. Or don't get into an argument over something like that. Because I always say it's the ignorance of them.


Dalia 16:28 

So, you've had people make comments while you were presenting, not just feedback after?


Jose Quinones 16:34 

You know what, maybe, and I will tell you, I was probably maybe two years ago, someone decided to say a little bit out loud that he couldn't understand my accent, if I could repeat myself. But the way he said it, it was truly to make fun of me.


Dalia 16:56 



Jose Quinones 16:57 

You know what I mean? And sometimes it's like, when you're in the theater, you know, someone make a noise. And the actor many times lose that concentration. So you just have to look into it, look at the group, don't feel pity, and just move on. Because I said you know what, bless his heart, it's that his ignorance, or her ignorance? You know what I mean? Because it's not just the accent, you know what I mean? Many people will say, "He's too intense, he's too flamboyant." You know, every day, anybody will say something like that, why I've been talking about it, because I've been blessed to travel the country, Dalia with my job, not just with JTM, but with the other companies. And I realize the diversity of the workforce, and the people, you know, and the kids.


Dalia 17:52 

It's so refreshing to see, to hear more voices. Of course, it's great to hear from everybody, even members of the majority, of course, you want to hear from them, too. But I don't think everybody can understand how it starts to feel like you're hearing everything from like one narrative, one perspective, and you really get to where you crave hearing something, a broader story, like including more members of the human family, like I don't always want to hear things from just one cultural group. It's refreshing to hear what other people are up to and what other people's food cultures have done to influence what we're trying to do with food and nutrition in this country. I just don't see how we can really be strong without the inclusion because everything's so globalized, now. We're just going to be left behind if we don't be more inclusive.


Jose Quinones 18:51 

Exactly. And you just said the word that was going to tell you that have been many places that I call them, I shouldn't say I call them but I said they're sheltered, meaning those people, you know, they're born and raised, and they died within those city limits. You know what I mean? Maybe once in their lives, they will go to a big city. So it's my duty, my job to really talk about there is a lot out there. And because these people don't talk or don't eat, or don't dress like you doesn't mean they're like you, it's just their culture. And I always go back to the educational side. And you have a question here that I'll talk a little bit later on the things that how do you introduce, you know, these new foods to these kids, right? And I always said, let's just start getting there. They're studying history anyway, all of them. So, what better way to get, you know, that occasional side of, it's not just their different, you know, what I'm they eat, they eat all their foods, they eat all these, they dress up different, they like other colors, you know, the weather is different. And people turn, you know, tend to get more excited about, "I'm learning about other people."


Dalia 20:15 

Right? If you can involve the culinary side, as well. That makes a lot of sense. Usually, that's the first thing that people are willing to open up to about a different culture, is the food. So it's a great...


Jose Quinones 20:28 



Dalia 20:29 

…. gateway to sharing other parts of the world with the student body. Well, you mentioned that some people have kind of felt like maybe you were too intense. But I feel like as a presenter, you're so effective and entertaining. I know, my attention span is super short these days. But when you get up there, it's like everything you're saying, has a purpose. It's entertaining, and it's educational. And I've retained so much from your presentations. Whereas someone else who just kind of gets up and presents the facts without the humor, maybe I can't hang on to it as well. So how did you get to be such a dynamic presenter? It sounds like from the first time that old boss saw you present, they knew it was a gift you had. But is there something you did to build it up more?


Jose Quinones 21:20 

You know, I always I go back to what today again, way before your time. Today, they call it service leadership? You know what I mean? People tend to think that the leader is someone up there, up there very high, that doesn't touch the public, you know what I mean that their seat is done on the ground. And I'm a person, Dalia, that if you come to my home, if I go to any activity, I'm always running around, you know, servicing the people, what else do you need? How can I make sure that you're having a great time? So, doing that presentation, I learned really, really fast, what you are talking about, and I go the training. Again, on the early 90s, there was something called TQM; total quality management. And they trained me and other people to do, to be the facilitator. Today, they call them moderators. But it was the facilitator in English and Spanish, where you were actually talking about with the employees and the management, how to be proud of what they do, you know, so the job is done, well done every single time. What I learned really fast, Dalia that the only way that people were listening to you is connecting with them. It was not about me being there, it was not about my life, it was all about them. So it was looking at their eyes, looking at them and getting something that I knew they needed to know. And build a story while I'm talking to them. I don't know if I make sense to you, but it was just connecting to the group.


Dalia 23:05 

So, you are way ahead of your time, because I know I've seen some old management theory and older presentation, build a workshop materials that really are focused on kind of hierarchy, like you said, like you're the one with the information and your way up here. And the focus is absolutely not on the learner. So, to have figured that out just intuitively is really impressive.


Jose Quinones 23:33 

And it was also you know, making proud, making these people be proud of what they do. And I always told them, "You are the ones that are making us look good." You know what I mean? And I remember being, and you will laugh about this, but when I was in high school, I was in theater, but I will tell you this, after my first play, they threw me out because they said "Jose, you can never follow the script." That's number one; people will die laughing. But I will make stuff up while scenes were going. I said, "You need to go back, you need to go and be the director and be back there, moving and shaking these people." But I learned really fast. And they taught me that the teachers; it's not about you, it's all about these people that are doing the play, they are the ones making you look good. And mostly making the public feel good. You see what I mean? They went there for an hour, you have to come with them. It's all about them and that's what I keep telling everybody; "it's not about you. It's about them." And that's my rule. One of my top three rules, you know, in this, being in sales, you know, when you go there, people don't want to buy taco meat. People want to embrace you, people want to feel good. You know, like I feel, everybody, people buy from people that they like, that's the bottom line. You don't connect with them...


Dalia 25:07 

-because you said initially you're afraid, not afraid, but not very interested in sales, because you didn't like the idea of having to beg people to accept a product. When did you realize that sales and marketing can be much more than that when you believe in the product and you care about your customer?


Jose Quinones 25:25 

You know, you just said that word. First of all, because of my background, it was very easy for- I shouldn't say easy. It was easier for me to talk about the problem because I work so much on the back end of it. You see what I mean? So, I was able to immediately create a story. This is how we make it. You know, the cows were killed, they are cooked at this temperature, we were talking about safety. And we were talking about consistency, when people wouldn't, when those words weren't not even from the vocabulary of the people. So, it wasn't like, do you want to buy this hamburger? So it was always let me explain to you what we've done to bring this product to you. And it was always how is this going to benefit you? And your, you know, your kids? Since we're talking about the schools. So, I was always looking for that connection. Dalia.


Dalia 26:25 



Jose Quinones 26:26 

You know, you have a director like you, you have the, you know, the operational side. So when people go to your school, and they have no idea what equipment you have, what people you have, what's the layout, you know, how many students how many mailers you know, all that stuff. But when you bring that story to them, they said, you know what, I can relate to this person. That's how I got into the marketing. I always love, you know, events, all my life. I'm all about events, make another event. So, bringing the marketing side to my sales was a complete applause in my life. In being honest, you know, what I mean? If I didn't like a problem that will tell you I said, "You know what, I know I'm making these, I don't think this is what you want." You know what I mean? Or they will tell me that you really like this? If I didn't like it, Dalia, I don't care how many millions of pounds, I will tell you, I just don't like it.


Dalia 27:29 



Jose Quinones 27:29 

Let's move on. Let's get something so people will know when Jose tells me this is good, my reputation is there.


Dalia 27:38 

Right? Right. And has that ever been an issue with different companies or not really, that's something people have been willing to accept?


Jose Quinones 27:48 

You know, what it's been, I've been blessed that I only have probably three jobs in two of two of them is because the company was bought out by another company. And I stay with them. At the end of the day, they all respected that, because they knew that sales will come once people connected to you.


Dalia 28:12 



Jose Quinones 28:14 

So it was always selling, you know, I always said you have to sell to the top for them to understand, you know, this is how we need to do it. And of course sell to the bottom, you know, you have to get the people engaged, because the people that are working on it on a day-to-day basis. If they don't like it, it doesn't matter how good it is. It's never going to work,


Dalia 28:38 

Right. That's- Yes, that's absolutely true. Because there have been some products that I'm like, I'm not sure they ever really got a fair play because people couldn't, they didn't buy in, they didn't believe in the product, they kind of half-heartedly put it out there and didn't try and present it the way the manufacturer intended because they were just convinced that it wasn't going to work. So yeah, if you don't have to buy it from top down, then it's not going to fly.


Jose Quinones 29:07 

Yeah, and don't get me wrong, you know, I was very nervous at the beginning, you know, you have 30 people in a room, you have 60. So, that means you have 100, you have 200. So, you get your butterflies in your stomach, you know what I mean? But I just come out, I can tell you that I'm not a person that can talk in a podium, you know, you saw me and eat, I'm like "Oprah, give me a microphone. Let me walk around, let me touch the people, you know, let me connect to the, you know, with the public."


Dalia 29:40 

And it's so much more interesting, so much more engaging, because it doesn't feel like any two presentations would ever be the same exactly, because you are giving like a tailored presentation to your audience, because you engage with the audience. So, that feels special, too. So-


Jose Quinones 29:58 

Yes, and you know... Go ahead.


Dalia 30:01 

I was just going to say, so what does your average day look like? So, I know you're doing a lot of presentations for your company, but what else is under your umbrella?


Jose Quinones 30:12 

You know, my job. I mean, my title is business development manager, the National. In paper, I'm responsible, responsible meaning I should be going and visit the top 300 schools in the country. Okay, what I mean by that is the company has the regional sales manager, like we have someone that you know, like Mike Spencer that represents Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas. So, what I do the most is to bring, and to create a story of JTM, their employees, their culture and their problems, to your school, tailor to your school. In might be the same problem, it is the same problem. But when I go to you, Dalia, I'm doing it for you, for your people. So, I do a lot of training, you know, training meaning first of all, I have to go and get you excited about it. And then I said, "Okay, Dalia, just give me the opportunity to get your employees excited about what we're going to do." And then I work with you, you know, I work with the customers on the operational side. And the marketing, you know, our marketing department is amazing. You know, and we have a group of chefs, but is like opening a book and you have 500 choices.


Dalia 31:41 



Jose Quinones 31:42 

So, my job is to tailor some of those choices to you, so you don't have to stress out. So, when I come to you, I'm not saying it's perfect, but I more or less have an idea. This is what I believe you will want to have in your operation. And I also are very much involved in association, you know, the ACTA, which is the American Commodity Distribution Association, which is with the USDA and USDA Food. SNA National, you know, I'm on the board, I'm on the board with a School Nutrition Foundation, and I just finished being the industry representative for the Institute of Child Nutrition, on the board. And then I get very much involved on the board and certain states, you know, state affiliated.


Dalia 32:38 



Jose Quinones 32:40 

And that's what I, so I'm not going to say I'm the face of JTM. Because everybody has the puzzle, you know, on it. But on a national level, when I travel the country, I'm bringing consistency of who we are as a company and what we have to offer.


Jose Quinones 32:59 

You know what I mean? Because if we have a regional the half for state, he or she can be very, or they are very expert, you know, like in any other company? Well, they're experts in what's going on there. Maybe when I go to CUU, they'll meet you know, Jose, tell me a little bit more out of the blue, I'm having a lot of Haitians or a lot of people from South America. Can you tell me a little bit of what other schools are doing? How are they doing it? And people love to hear that, you know, what are they doing? Help me out? Because obviously I'm going back to the diversity is it's happening all over.


Dalia 33:39 

Yea, that's really-


Jose Quinones 33:40 

Or, you might feel me? Yeah. Or you might tell me, you know, hopefully, I've never done a rice bowl here. And my kids are talking about you, possibly, can you tell me a little bit more about it? What do I need? You know, this is what I have. Is this hard to do? And I can say immediately, "Hey, Dalia, let me tell you, these are the schools that are making it, these are the problems that we're using it's not just all JTM. But let me tell you the operational side, let me tell you about this, and how it gets done. And let me do the presentation." And then obviously lately, on the last, probably two or three years, I've been doing presentations on the motivational side of it. Talking to the managers, let's say you have 50 managers and you know, few times a year, you bring the managers, so maybe after lunch when they're half asleep, because they're bored, they'll bring me in and I start talking about, it could be about, you know, I have an amazing presentation called the CEO, Cafeteria Executive Officers, and they love it. Because it's all about them. You know, I tell them, "Hey, you have your boss here, but don't get mistaken. You are the one that is here in front of these kids every single morning, you are the one that is making the whole feeling, you know, successful, and these kids are looking out for you." So they get pumped up. They get pride. They're excited. And what I love about it is mainly it's a forum, Dalia, for them to speak out. And you will be surprised how many times, it only takes one person to stand up and say, "I love my job, and I love to come here five in the morning. I love to talk to these kids." And suddenly another person tells another story and next thing, I just sit back and let the people just spread the love to the group.


Dalia 35:38 

Right. What do you think get- causes people to burn out? Because I do see that there's a lot of job satisfaction in school nutrition. But then sometimes on the front lines, it seems like there's more burnout, what happens there?


Jose Quinones 35:55 

You know, that's a very hard question. Because obviously being in this business for over 30 years, I can tell you that before, I'm talking about way before your time, or when you were a little kid, a cafeteria was just a cafeteria, you know what I mean? Those cafeteria managers only had to worry about, let me do the cooking. And leave me alone. In today's life it's not just the food, you know what I mean? You have a business to run, you have to be, you have to be green, you have all these a higher specifications of the product, and you have all these regulations. You know what I mean? So, it's not like you see the kid that you know, they've been fired, you know, this kid really didn't eat last night, I'm going to give them two scoops. Well, that doesn't work anymore,


Dalia 36:49 



Jose Quinones 36:50 

And I want to stay positive in my, you know, in my conversation with you. But you also have a very vocal, a group of teachers that won't even step into the cafeteria, they don't even go through it to see what they have, they won't even walk into the cafeteria, you know what I mean? And now you know, you have a generation where the parents are extremely involved in their kids, they want to know what they're eating. And I hate to say it, but many of them have never been in the cafeteria to see, listen, we have gorgeous salads offered to your kids, that they don't tell you the whole different drama. You know what I mean? We have gardens, we have fruits and vegetables. And let me show you the high quality. And one of the things that I've been preaching for the last few years, don't tell me anymore that we're working on getting good food. We have good food is just we have not done a good job exposing that story.

Jose Quinones 37:58 

And that's why I believe is what you're saying, they're burnt out. Because a lot of them, Dalia it's just two, three hours that they come to cook. But, remember, now you're talking about people that never had to, to keep a production record, you know what I mean? Or a group of people that they never had to measure a lot of these things. So, it is a lot of stress. And dangerous at times.


Dalia 38:32 

Right. Right. Yeah.


Jose Quinones 38:33 

And you know, now I know that, you know, certifications for safety, certification for temperature, I mean, it's a lot more complicated than it used to be right. So, how do we, you know, how do we balance? How do we manage all that information, and still make it exciting? But I'm going to tell you this, that's how I took the initiative, and I said I but we did with many directors, let's find a way to talk to these managers and explain to them how important it is. And let's listen to them. You know what I mean? A lot of these managers now, Dalia are saying, you know, are saying, you know, what? Don't give me a one day a year training, you know, it's too much. Can we just divide it in few, you know, few times a year. You learn from listening to your employees. And you know, many of them are saying, "Listen, I don't need to have four people in the kitchen at six in the morning." Let's get them involved, they are the ones that are there every single day. And I truly believe even on your personal you know, your personal life? I don't know, do you have kids?


Dalia 39:48 

No, no kids, for me.


Jose Quinones 39:50 

Okay. Well, the deal is that, you know, even with friends Dalia, when you get kids, your own kids, your friends, your family, engaged, involved, they get a whole different attitude, they want to help, they want to be part of it. You see what I mean? They these people that are getting all stressed out the other one someone and I keep saying so want to you know, a director, or Superintendent or whoever, to come down and said, "This is the way you need to do it. And it needs to get done this way," you know what I mean, and I have heard it from day one. They said he'll say, you know, they spit God, let me tell you this, I've been doing this for 20 years. And there is other ways that we can do this, we can put in the refrigerator. I mean, you learn so much from talking to the people that are working on it on a daily basis. Now, let's face it, they are the ones that the kids are looking at every single day, they are the ones dealing with the kids that are crying, or the kids that are have all these at risk, you know, problems at home. It's not just the food that you're serving, it's the personal side that they have to be engaged to those kids.


Dalia 41:03 

That makes a lot of sense that giving people that sense of autonomy or influence over their own life and their own work experience can help with some of the stress and help with motivation to kind of hang in there. Because who wants to stay in a place where they feel like they have no voice or no power. Nobody really wants that. So...


Jose Quinones 41:22 

Exactly. And they don't feel appreciated, and let me tell you, Dalia to stay positive. I always ask the directors, you know, friends of mine, when was the last time you went to visit the school? You know what I mean? Many directors will tell you, "Jose, I go to different schools every single day on my way to work or on my way out. I want to make sure I know they're there. I want to make sure they're okay. I want to make sure their families, okay." So, it's that personal side. And I'm not saying for you to get involved in their personal life, but they want to feel part of the equation. They want to feel respected. They want to feel that they are important.


Dalia 42:08 

Yeah, that's a really good point. So it sounds like JTM offer services to make life easier for school nutrition operations. So you guys, you tailor, basically help guide them, like what products you have available that could work well for their school, what are some other things that you do to make things easier for them?


Jose Quinones 42:30 

JTM offers a lot of help on the side of the culinary side of marketing for many new ideations. And that's one of the things that I've been doing lately. As a matter of fact, I have two of those going on in California when I leave tomorrow, and many are the Asians means to you, Dalia, I am not just going to go there. And I keep mentioning, you know, tackle me but let's say mac and cheese, I'm gonna just going to bring up mac and cheese to your school and say, "Dalia, my mac and cheese is better than the competition," I said, "No, let me let me show you what people are doing out there, a Mac, you know, bring them a Mac bar, let's build up and this is what you do. And you get the, you know, you get the grain, one grain from here, and then you can get the other grain from this bread. And that way you can get it from that company or this company. And these are the proteins that you can have." So, we help you on the menu at the Asian to build the whole plate.


Dalia 43:32 



Jose Quinones 43:32 

People love that. Because you can bring your menu person to the meeting, you can bring your operational person to the meeting, we have people that will walk through your cafeterias and tell you, "You know what, I think we can do something with the flow or that flow? Or maybe we can do this or do that," you know, so the service is all about that service. You know what I mean? You said, you know, "Jose, I'm using this streamer or I'm not getting the report." And I said, "Okay, let's have a meeting with a distributor." I have- JTM has someone that's specifically to deal with the distributors. JTM has someone that's specifically to deal with the allocations. So, we have people that are, I hate to use the word experts, but that's what they do.


Dalia 44:22 



Jose Quinones 44:23 

And they you have the connection, you know, it's not like you're dealing with 10 people, but will filter all that knowledge, and all that is service through one person, which it will be your regional sales manager and or me.


Dalia 44:38 

Gotcha. So it's not just the products, it's service, too, and it sounds like a lot of that information could be applied, no matter what happens, like just having those ideas and being able to get that help with the kitchen setup and flow and efficiency. That's awesome.


Jose Quinones 44:55 

Yeah. And, you know, and because we actually sailed to the fifty, you know, to all over in the country, we can bring new ideas of what other flavors, what trends are happening there. And you know, it's not like you're going to do it, but many times dealing with eaters say, "Oh my God, what a great idea. I had no idea we can do this."


Dalia 45:17 

Well, speaking of that, what new trends are you seeing coming into the K-12 space that started out like in commercial settings?


Jose Quinones 45:26 

You know, I people always ask, these are the sounds a little bit old fashioned, you know, like it happened last year, but if not, I will say, three tackles rice bowls, mashed potato bowls, tater tot bowls. And all related to what we call which we offer that service. You know, we have some brands that we let it schools take, you know, not they don't have JTM, but is build your own place. You know, we call it, "My Way Cafe." And I'm not talking about you letting your kids pick and choose every single ingredient on it. But it will be fabulous if you're doing an open burrito bar. You know, you might offer burritos every day, every other week. But the kids said, "This is not what I eat on the street."


Dalia 46:23 



Jose Quinones 46:23 

So suddenly, you're saying you know what, "I want everybody to have rice, everybody to have beans." Guess what? You start with that, and at the end of the line, you say, "Okay, what do you what would you like to have? Do you want shredded pork? Do you want any chicken on it?" And then at the very end, you have shredded lettuce, you have different sauces, you have condiments. They feel that they are picking and choosing what they're eating. And I call it these deconstructing your plate. You know what I mean? Instead of giving everything together, let them pick one or two things. You'll be surprised, I mean, it's funny because people said all my kids want to eat, you know, black beans, my kids don't eat corn. I said, "Okay, we're gonna make 10 bucks here." So we make a salad, you know, with black beans and corn and cilantro and a little bit of Sriracha sauce, just to be too specific. But the funny thing is that I keep telling them kids love to pile stuff in their plate. Let's set up the line. Or you don't have the plate already made. Let's just leave you the scenes of the very end. They couldn't believe it. When we were having Asian rice bowls, or the noodles. They will say, "I want those. I want the broccoli added there. I want this. I want that." And they said they will have never ate it before. But the thing is, that's what they see at the restaurant. It looks fresh. It looks good. And we give you that sense, "I am getting to pick what I want." And I think, you know what, "I don't like hot food." Okay, perfect. Then at the end of the line, you don't put Sriracha, let the kid that likes it to put the Sriracha. Like when you're talking about Mexican food, you're talking about, "Okay, I want pico de gallo," people will tell me, "Oh, Jose, but I want to buy these try," And I said, "Girl, you're not compromising when you're talking about it because I got you," You're talking about fresh tomatoes, fresh cilantro, you know, fresh lime, fresh onions. That's something that we need to find the time to do it. Kids will say immediately, "Oh my god, what restaurant is serving food today?" Happens every single time.


Dalia 48:42 

Now what about people who are afraid, "Oh, this is going to slow down the line?" Because when you go to a place like to Chipotle or something, they move a huge lunch rush through the lines super, super fast. It seems like once you know the menu, it moves quickly. But have you seen how people have had to make changes to their point of sale or maybe have an extra point of sale if they give more options on their line?


Jose Quinones 49:06 

Okay, we are being very specific here. But obviously, I'm going to give you an example. If you have two people running the kitchen, you know that day the line, you probably want to have three people. You know you're making an event of this. However, I'm going to answer you like I tell everybody said, oh my god. Let's say that you're having seven choices every day. You know what Dalia, that day, you cannot have seven choices. You need to have four.


Dalia 49:33 



Jose Quinones 49:34 

Because you need to manage that event. That event means you're going to have people coming through. One of the things that I tell everybody, these kids don't know what you're doing new that day, you need to make a plate presentation like they do at the restaurants, walk out, show it to the people. This is what you're going to see up there. Send it on a tweet. I mean, I'm being too specific. My point is, we need to build up the excitement of what they're going to find there. And obviously, when you're doing something different, we have to treat it and I keep using the name of the event. But you have to treat it differently. You know what I mean? You cannot be offering pizza, burger, chicken nuggets and all the different things you do every day. That day? You know what, praise God, it's only four but we need to be hoping that they will find something in those four that they will eat and believe me, they do! Because they're excited about it.


Dalia 50:37 

How do you connect with your background and marketing? Is there a big difference between how we connect with adults and how we connect with the Gen Z customers?


Jose Quinones 50:46 

That is a very good- I work way too many food jobs in my life. Dalia, that's something that when I retire, I love them. But there's way too many. Because you might have some you know, you have adults gotten through and they said, "I don't like hot food. I don't like beans, I don't like Sriracha." I look right at them. And I said, "This is not for you. This is for your kids." So whether you like beans or I mean, I was just in Oregon and she was laughing because I said, "This is not for you. Whether you like beans or not, it's irrelevant."


Dalia 51:23 



Jose Quinones 51:23 

Let me explain to you what people are doing out there. Let's set up a festival, the kids and let them decide. Because remember, you're talking about an adult that has never, if you don't like jalapenos, you're gonna say, "I don't serve Mexican food because I don't like jalapenos. I don't like Sriracha." You know, right now I will tell you a huge clan out there is Korean BBQ. And let me tell you, I can go through my whole family. If two people likes Korean BBQ it's one too many. Why? They're not exposed. Their kids are. So, if you ask them in your meeting, Dalia about it. They're all gonna say, "Dalia, you crazy, these people don't know what that is. And I said, Guess what? When they go to the mall, that's exactly what they're looking at."


Dalia 52:12 

Right. It sounds like you're saying-


Jose Quinones 52:14 

What the deal is, is engaging the adults to tell them, let's give the opportunity to the kids to decide, you know, what do they like, and don't take it for granted. These kids are a lot more exposed on many of these things.


Dalia 52:30 

It's definitely-


Jose Quinones 52:31 

When it comes to food...


Dalia 52:32 

... because with us being in, I'm in Middle Georgia and people had a lot of reservations about adding, we have a pulled pork street taco now and on a nice soft flatbread, mini flatbread type of thing. And we have enchiladas, and at first everybody's like, "Oh, the kids don't know what this is. They're not going to eat it." But they wanted to like call it a special maybe like ethnic food day, like this isn't ethnic food anymore. What are you talking about, like needs food that they eat all the time and food courts, like you said, and at Chipotle and like these themes, these international food themes are all over the place. So even if you live in an area that's not very diverse, it doesn't mean you don't eat this way all the time and think nothing of it.


Jose Quinones 53:21 

You, no, no, and let me tell you, and it's funny that you just mentioned the Hispanic food because I make a few points here on that question from you. In many places that I've gone, Dalia, even today. Anything that is not American, they call it Hispanic. And I'm gonna tell you this right now, 90% of my presentations, this is how I start. "People... even if you know that I speak Spanish, it doesn't mean I'm Mexican."


Dalia 53:51 

Thank you!


Jose Quinones 53:52 

And they all start, they all start laughing, and I say, "Nothing against the Mexican but I want to make sure that you understand, that there is a lot more countries that speak Spanish. So break the ice. Because when I talk about black beans and rice, you know, pulled pork, plants, food plantains, and I will go back to the trends. People said, "Oh, I don't eat black beans and rice because it's too hot. I said, "Caribbean people don't eat jalapenos, that's Mexican." "Oh, I didn't know that." So, it's truly going back to the educational side. You know what I mean? We need to stop calling it Hispanic for everything else. Because to your point, Caribbean food, and Mexican food is totally, totally different. And there was a huge train- Of course, I live in Miami, but I can tell you from being in the Carolinas. I mean, right now there's so many people, kids from Central America moving into many of our states. And guess what? They do know what plantains are. They do know what red beans or pinto beans or yucca             , all that, we just need to find. And many of the items, you know, like you were talking about a movement on to more Caribbean, kids love York chicken. You know what I mean? And half of them don't even know that how it's called.


Dalia 55:25 

Well, it's so funny. We just had a student chef competition. And one of the kids decided to do beef patties. And his teacher who was not Caribbean kept calling him empanadas. And I'm like, okay, fine, technically, they do kind of look exactly like an empanada. That's not where he was headed with it. But, I just thought it was nice. Even though she didn't know. She wasn't familiar with it from like Jamaican cuisine. She still is like, yeah, that looks familiar enough that she ate it. She thought it tasted good. So even if you're calling it the wrong thing does maybe you wouldn't like it. I thought it was nice that she was open to it, even though she didn't recognize it.


Jose Quinones 56:05 

Exactly. And, then you've got the point right there, many times they don't recognize what it is. And I will tell you this, Dalia going into the kids, I am a true believer of sampling. Take a day, you know, take one day a month and bring some of those things in giving us a sample, you will be surprised how many kids will said, "Oh my god, I love this flavor. Oh my god, I love that," you know, they are exposed to that. I mean, it's like, it cannot be gravy in mashed potatoes every single day.


Dalia 56:41 

Right. That's true.


Jose Quinones 56:43 

You know what I mean? Like you're saying, you're doing street tacos with pork? Well, let me tell you, I can give you 10 different recipes that you can do with that pork and kids are not gonna say, "Oh, this is the same stuff that gave me two days ago." So you know what, being-


Dalia 56:58 

Lots of different ways, so your inventory, you know, you can keep it controlled, but keep the menu interesting.


Jose Quinones 57:06 

Exactly. And you know, people are talking about yellow rice. You know, I see a trend when you're asking me what trends do you see. You know, it sounds really fancy when you put stuff from 90% of the people maybe in your place or some places in Pennsylvania they have no clue. But let me tell you this, you start talking, you explain to them what it is, makes a yellow give the spice, kids say, "Oh my god, I love this." Guys, they go to Taco Bell. You know, they know, you know, they know all this stuff. And it's not just like I said, stop calling it Hispanic foods on everything Spanish, you know, Spanish foods, Mediterranean. I'm getting a lot of people that said, "Jose, I need some help. I need some flavors. What are you talking about? What do I need to get?" I will give you the perfect example. You know, the Philly steak that we make?


Dalia 58:01 



Jose Quinones 58:01 

There's two or three companies that make the Philly steak. So people will tell me "Oh, Jose, I stopped serving Philly steaks, you know, five years ago." I said I have 11 recipes. "What are you talking about?" I said, "I can tell you hundreds of schools that are making, you know, a broccoli beef. You know, steak, they call it broccoli steak with General Tso’s sauce." I said, "Oh my God." And I said, "You know what? I have many schools that one day a month, they call it International Day. They'd be great for a day." They did gyros. They said it was the biggest success, had no idea what it was. But guess what? You put this the oregano on the beef, you put a tzatziki sauce and fresh tomatoes and fresh cucumber. Let me tell you, kids do know what that is. So if I smile, because I see it over and over and over when people said, "I had no idea I could do all these things."


Dalia 59:02 

Yes. So that was another one of my questions. How do you add flavor and fun to the menu without adding a bunch of sodium? So, it sounds like fresh ingredients. And, what else?


Jose Quinones 59:16 

You know what I, we all talk about the condiments. And I call it a potpourri of the kitchen. You know when you add fresh, and I keep talking about fresh, because it makes a difference. Sprinkle you know that fresh cilantro, you know spike the flavor with lime. You know black pepper, you know the peppers, the herbs, there's many herbs that you can add blends out there that are reduce sodium, and some of that has no sodium, that really boost the flavor of the food and hot sauces. You know, you have you have the sweet Thai chili sauce, you have orange sauce, I mean, there's- and I'm going into the Asian side of it. But on the Caribbean or even on the American it doesn't need to have just salt. You know, you can do the blend of the onion powder with a little bit of black paper and a little bit of the lime. You know, dry lime, it just add flavor to it. It really does.


Dalia 1:00:20 

Yeah, now we deal with a lot of meat that's already been cooked. And when the meats already cooked, it doesn't seem to absorb the flavor the same way when you, you know, try and put it on when you're reserving it. How do you get around that? Is the sauce the key?


Jose Quinones 1:00:38 

Yes, it is all about the sauce. You know they are, I can tell you, let's say chicken patties. That's the one that I see the most kids love. You know, the buffalo style, you know, chicken Patty. It's been in the market for 15 years. They're tired of it. But guess what? Take Sriracha, take some of the other sauces out there. You brush it, put it in the oven, it makes a huge difference on it. And what I like to call shock me but it's not really shock me, you know they like pico de gallo. When you start cutting some of that onions and peppers and things and you sauté them in the oven. You know what I call sauté, put it in the oven, with a little bit of butter spray, and you put it on the top, it just makes a huge difference.


Dalia 1:01:27 

Yeah. Okay, that's a great tip. So, it sounds like the key to introducing these new flavors, and exposing our kids to new things, even though we understand that maybe they're not familiar is giving them a chance to taste it and putting it out there in a positive light making it an event?


Jose Quinones 1:01:44 

You know, I always say, drive around your schools and see what restaurants that you have. What concepts do you have? It will give you an idea, go to the mall. What is on that food cart, you know what I mean?


Dalia 1:01:57 



Jose Quinones 1:01:58 

And then I will tell you Dalia, make it an event, take a day, and you take the educational side of that country, I said country, could be an area and you talk about it, not just about the food, they get a little bit about the culture. So you can start talking about the diversity of what I do, what I do. I love to say, what when you bring an example of the slacks, or the coins, or what language do they talk, because at the end of the day, they're humans just like we are and they love that. And you know, because like I told the director, you know, there's history from American history, European history, what better way to take a day a month. And I said that until you start or just start to introduce the concepts. And that's what we help you know, let's start combining maybe every other Thursday is Italian Day, from that's what you start reintroducing some of those items. And I will tell you this, Dalia because I always laugh about it. "Oh Jose, I haven't served a meatball sandwich in ages." Well you know why? Because you've been putting a marinara sauce that it look, it's water, that is why. You need to upscale that marinara sauce. These kids, when they go to Italian places that marinara sauce is sick! It has that oregano aroma to it. And it works, you know what I mean? It's to try to be as authentic as you can be. Let me tell you, the industry has done a fabulous job upgrading many, many of the problems. I mean, there's so much you can do with breaded nuggets. And don't get me started with that, chicken nuggets. And you know, breaded patties. Because it is hard. You know, 60% of this stuff is spreading? I mean, how much can you do with it. And many times, I will go to the operational side, Dalia, we cannot heat up and cook product at six in the morning. And expected to serve it at 11 o'clock in the morning. Right? So, a lot of these concepts is what I call the batch cooking. "Oh, my God is too much work." No, girl, it's not that much. Let's just leave them in the bag. Let's start preparing, you know, the hotel pans, you know, half an hour before an hour before. And when they start working on it. They said, "Oh my god, this is really good." Now let me tell you something that someone taught me. You go through the line, the first few kids, everything looks beautiful.


Dalia 1:04:45 



Jose Quinones 1:04:45 

You put condiments and all that, the last five kids? It looks awful. I mean, not even I can't. So you know what? That director asked the managers? Can you go through the line right now? Okay, will you eat this? They will say, "Oh, I won't eat that." I said, exactly. That's what the kids are looking at. They're not going to eat it. But it takes that ownership again, like I'm talking about our understanding of empowerment, for them to say, "I have to do a better job, I want to make sure that my last kid's experience is as good as the first kid in that line."


Dalia 1:05:31 

I think some people are afraid of the batch cooking because they feel like they can't handle it. And they have this fear of running out of food. And they just, I don't know they want to see all these piles and piles of food ready to go.


Jose Quinones 1:05:45 

Yep. And you know what? And you know what, Dalia that's exactly, you're completely correct. That is the biggest challenge that I did in my career in the last five years. But if we want to make a change, like we've been talking for the last hour, we need to look for a way. And that's where the managers will come into play. Because they will say this is too hard. You know, trust me, I've been in presentations when the lady said, "You want me to slice onions? That's too much work!" I mean, literally. And you know what I said, "Girl, you cannot be that busy and that lazy." And they all die laughing, you know, because I do it in a funny way. And I said, "Listen, there's certain scenes that we need to do that extra effort. I'm not telling you to do it every day. But let's make it an event." And then suddenly somebody will stand up and I said, "Oh, I do it every day. And I do it the night before, before I leave and I cover it with plastic and I put in a little bit of lime so doesn't get..." and next thing you know, people are getting excited. "Oh my god, it can be done!"


Dalia 1:06:57 

Coming up with solutions. Yeah.


Jose Quinones 1:06:58 

Exactly, it can be done. But many times, and I will say 90% of the time, Dalia the solutions of our challenges come within the same people. You will be surprised how much they know, they work with that every single day.


Dalia 1:07:17 

Right. So maybe put it back on the workforce, workshops how to solve some of these problems.


Jose Quinones 1:07:24 

Exactly. Let me tell you, I've been in places where I see them preparing their hamburger at seven in the morning. The first kid takes a hamburger 1130 in the morning. You know what Dalia? I don't care how good you are. That is a scene. That burger is not even a burger by the time it's eleven o'clock. So, that's the reason why the kids said, "I don't want this." The bread is soggy. Oh my god, the bread is not good. No, the bread was really good. But it's been wrapped in that burger with the juices since seven in the morning. Of course, it's not good!


Dalia 1:08:01 

Yeah, that makes perfect sense.


Jose Quinones 1:08:04 

That's one of the things that I'm finding out what we call the burger bar, deconstructing the burger, have everything ready, let the kids breathe, you know, get the bread. Let the kids put everything on that bread when they get to their seat. It's not taking more of your time, you will be surprised. Of course you're not offering again, seven things, but can you imagine the different toppings that you're getting to use that day? It's the same burger that you've been cooking at seven in the morning. But that day, it looks fresh! You know what I mean? They looking at it, they pick it up, they put their stuff on it, "Oh my god, I love the smell of the burger!" So, yes...


Dalia 1:08:47 

Yeah, you're presenting a different way. And I think that people forget how important it is to people to have a choice. And I don't think this is unique to Gen Z. Maybe this isn't. I don't know if baby boomers were like this as much. But people when you're growing up, you want to have some control over your life. And you really don't have that much during the school day, someone is always telling you what to do. So, the idea of finally, somebody asking you what you want, is appealing. So, even for the kids who, you know, are maybe kind of too cool to want to have that much interaction with the program. People like choice. And as much as adults like autonomy. Teenagers are kind of obsessed with autonomy, because they're just getting a taste of it. So yeah, I could see how giving them more choice would help with participation.


Jose Quinones 1:09:41 

Yeah, and you know, many times you're not talking about 10 different things, you're probably talking about making nachos. Maybe you give them the choice. Do you want yellow cheese? Or do you want white cheese? "Oh, my God, this is great." Do you want shredded pork or you want taco meat? So, yes. Is that sense of ownership to your point? Yeah.


Dalia 1:10:02 

Right. And I know we I've kept you other folks for so long. So I just have two more questions. So yeah, how much have you gotten to work with school nutrition programs in Puerto Rico? Like, do you guys cover Puerto Rico and Hawaii and Alaska, as well?


Jose Quinones 1:10:18 

Yea, let me tell you this. We do business in Hawaii, a lot. And we do business in Alaska. Puerto Rico is a whole different ballgame. I just met with our directors, now they act that conference, Puerto Rico is different from the sense, most of the problem that they get is what they call the brown box, and you know, the like delivery, right? Most of this stuff is canned, you know canned chicken, canned tuna, and canned beef. In many of the schools, those things have proper refrigeration. So it's going to take many, many years, and believe me, it's been one of my dreams to really, really do something with them. We just had a meeting, as a matter of fact, last week in New York, with them, and it's gonna take years for them to get to what you're saying, yeah, you might have a small school that is cooking, because you know, they have 200 students. But usually that's not the case, when it comes to Puerto Rico. So they, their participation on the commodity program is very limited.


Dalia 1:11:28 

Is that just because of their location, and the shipping expenses?


Jose Quinones 1:11:32 

You know, it's all of it but Hawaii is a lot harder, but everything goes to California. And it goes to Hawaii is just experience, you know, and in Puerto Rico, you know, have 75 different small towns. And it's just very hard. I mean, we just went through that huge hurricane that the one of the biggest challenge, if not the biggest challenge that the food banks in the United States had to bring aid to Puerto Rico was getting to those towns.


Dalia  1:11:53 

Was this an issue in the schools before the storm?


Jose Quinones 1:12:10 

Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Yes. A building many, many, many, many schools, that refrigerator is probably twice the size of your refrigeration. I mean, your refrigerator at home. They just don't have- yes.


Dalia 1:12:25 

So a lot of kids typically eat at home then?


Jose Quinones 1:12:29 

You know what? To tell you the truth, they just do a lot of problems with chicken in the can and tuna and sandwiches, you know, cold sandwiches, they do a lot of rice and beans. So, they do eat. They do eat hot food, but its basic hot food. Yes.


Dalia 1:12:47 

Have you seen- it's amazing how people are so resilient and people come up with solutions, even when resources are limited. Have you seen any healthy, exciting dishes that people have done in K-12, in Puerto Rico that could be used here? Basically, what would you think we would maybe want to copy?


Jose Quinones 1:13:06 

You know what? From Puerto Rico, you know, rice and beans, beans are very healthy in our diet, you know, in Puerto Rico, and they have a lot of different type of grains, garbanzos, pinto beans, you know, red beans, gandules. They're very healthy. We haven't been exposed that much to it. You know, we have white rice with the beans. We have yellow rice, we have brown rice, the pork, the pork is the other white meat. And I came from companies for pork was the major item. So, I'm biased on it when it comes to pork. But this country thinks that chicken is number one, you know what I mean? Pork is very healthy. And there is a lot of dishes, healthy dishes that you can do with pork. Pork is one of those- actually, I feel that pork will take a lot more flavor for the spices than your chicken. Yes. But again, you know you live in Georgia and Georgia is exposed to BBQ pork. I live in Florida, you know, Miami, but I can tell you many states that are not exposed to pork. So pork is a taboo, "Oh my god, no, no, we cannot afford it." And you know they, again, and I don't want to get into my soapbox, but out loud, the Mexican people and the Hispanics. That's what they eat every single day at home. So, why are we taking that from the diet? I'm just using that as an example. Again, this shows having choices.


Dalia 1:14:50 

Right? There's a way to meet the needs of everybody. Yeah, when it comes to respecting people's religious dietary restrictions, you can definitely do that and give options to everyone else who does allow pork in their diet.


Jose Quinones 1:15:06 

Yeah, uh, you know, what you're completely, because I'm a true believer, and remember it's not just by- the religion of the Muslim there are other religions that do not eat pork, some religions don't eat, you know, some, some other type of dishes, we go back to have, you know, the choices. And again, like I'm always talking out there, you know, we have a lot of vegan and vegetarian people, we need to respect that. And again, how do we incorporate that choice into an every day? And I don't want to get into my soapbox, but maybe today I feel like having a salad. Or maybe today, I don't feel like having meat.


Dalia 1:15:48 



Jose Quinones 1:15:48 

So you know, that's why I'm so excited that I see it now is called plant-based. Whoever came up with that idea is amazing. Because three years ago, it wasn't called plant-based, it was vegetarian, you know what I mean, but I tell you this, to your point, I have many friends, they won't eat pork, they won't eat this, they won't eat that. Not for religion, or for forever. They just feel just like you said, they just want chicken. They're just exposed to chicken.


Dalia 1:16:16 

Yeah. So it's nice to be able to build, like you said, with those people, you explained it the show like it doesn't matter if you like it or you don't like it, it's about the kids. So we don't have to impose our own food beliefs onto the kids, we just need to make the options available because we want as many of them as possible to eat with us. And I know we only really have to honor the allergies and the disability-related restrictions, but you want everyone to eat with you and everybody to be comfortable at school. So, you try and accommodate everybody.


Jose Quinones 1:16:51 

Yes. And you know, I want to close, going back to the inclusion and the diversity. You know, obviously because you just mentioned about the new generation coming in. Those are the people taking over our kitchens in the schools, if we don't really make them believe that we respect, I mean clues- include those, you know, that group, everybody, we're going to have a big problem up there because the older generation is retiring. So, we need to embrace that. And to your point, you just said something that I wanted to close on is if you're talking about inclusion and you're talking about diversity, then you need to prove it when you're talking about, when you're showing your menu and you're talking. You cannot be serving chicken nuggets every other day when that group of kids, Dalia, don't eat chicken nuggets at home and they have never seen a chicken nugget, you know what I mean? But, exactly but when you have the kids when they see, "Oh my god, they're trying," like you just said with the Jamaican Patty, the empanadas. They are, you know the South American people. That's what they eat all the time. What's wrong with us trying to find, hey, once a month, you're going to have something for you. So, you're showing and proving that you truly are embracing the diversity of your students, not by giving pizza, burgers, and chicken nuggets.


Dalia 1:18:25 

Thank you so much, that makes so much sense.


Jose Quinones 1:18:27 

Oh, you're welcome!


Dalia 1:18:29 

I really enjoyed talking to you. I've just, I've taken it all in. I just really appreciate you making the time to talk all of us.


Jose Quinones 1:18:37 

Well, I really, really, I enjoy, I know we almost talk, oh my God! Almost an hour and a half, amazing!


Dalia 1:18:47 

Thanks, everyone for joining us for another episode of School Nutrition Dietitian. I hope you got a lot of takeaways from that. I hate to recap again. Since we're already over the hour and a half mark. I feel like I recapped as we were going. There are a lot of takeaways there. If you would like to see the highlights from today's interview, just visit


Dalia 1:19:16 

I know while you're driving and listening to this podcast, you're not taking notes or you shouldn't be, anyway, and that's just a quick tool so that instead of you having to re-listen to the whole episode, you could just get your memory jogged right there in the show notes so you just sign up for the email list and I will get that right to you!


Theme Song 1:19:37 

[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]


Transcribed by