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New School Food Service — What Do You Think?

More fruits, vegetables and fun lunches mark switch from in-house to corporate lunches.

With the beginning of the new school year, students were introduced to Chartwells, the new food service company the Farmington Board of Education contracted with to supply school lunches.

The company, which serves more than 500 school districts daily, according to its website, took over Farmington’s cafeterias this fall after a June 2012 decision by the Board of Education.

Chartwells, along with new USDA regulations, brings a number of new choices to students, particularly more fruit and vegetable offerings, an emphasis on low sodium and reduced fat. Menus are tailored to each age group, with those at Farmington High School mirroring an eclectic array of restaurant fare with options such as Szechuan chicken, Cantonese pork and Italian Stromboli. Younger students are offered more familiar choices like macaroni and cheese, pizza, hot dogs, chicken nuggets and pasta.

According to the menus, “A full student lunch includes a choice of entrée supplying protein and grain, up to three vegetable side dishes, one fruit side dish, and milk.” As part of those offerings, a cold vegetable and fruit bar is available and each month, a “deeply colored, nutrient-rich vegetable” is featured.

Early anecdotal information suggests that most kids like some of the changes, while others – like the loss of strawberry milk and ice cream – are disappointing.

For this year, school lunch prices stay the same, though Chartwells notes in a letter to parents that the cost of producing the lunches is going up due to the new requirements.

In addition, operations will be overseen by Chartwells director Tim Malley, who lives in Burlington and has worked with the company since 1982.

Check out what’s on the Farmington High School menu for this month; Irving A Robbins Middle School; West Woods Upper Elementary School and the four elementary schools

Correction: The article initally read "For this year, school lunch prices stay the same, though Chartwells notes in a letter to parents that the cost of lunches is going up due to the new requirements." The cost of producing the lunches is increasing, though Chartwells has not indicated it will raise the price to students. 

Matt Smith September 11, 2012 at 12:11 PM
I think the fact that the school district was losing money on the lunches has less to do with quality and more to do with cost. I send my kids with lunch everyday, this saves me an average of $25.00 a week between two children. They can buy when there is a lunch they really like, chicken tenders, baked potato or pizza, etc.., but it cost me less each week to send them with a sandwich, fruit, yogurt and a bottle of water. And now we are being told the price is going up, after the assurance this was not going to happen when the vendor took over, I don't see them making a dent in their profits for the lunches.
Denise Connolly September 11, 2012 at 12:19 PM
Both my girls LOVE the food at FHS and think it was a great decision by the BOE. My oldest, who's a senior, says this is a big improvement over the former service and she approves the new menu and heard that others like it too. Not only is it healthy, but they use fresh, creative ingredients to make it appealing to teenagers. And as a parent, I'm happy to know that my girls have finally have healthier options at lunch. The only criticism is that the lines for the register are very long, so there is less time to sit and eat.
Beth Kintner September 11, 2012 at 01:28 PM
So far so good for my 5th grader. He only buys a few times per month, to save money & also b/c he only wants to buy certain menu items. He loved the pizza last week & the chicken nuggets yesterday. And I am hoping that they are healthier versions than last year. Maybe he will get a bit more adventurous soon & try some different offerings! I am also hoping that the food service workers who stayed are having a good experience with their new employer.
Sarah September 11, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Sounds like an improvement but it's too bad the younger kids don't get the same healthy options. It seems to me that it's easier to maintain a healthy diet/lifestyle if you were instilled with those values at a young age.
Liz Burt September 11, 2012 at 03:13 PM
My 4th and 6th graders used to buy lunch everyday. Now, they don't like the majority of the items offered, so they make their lunch each day. From what they have told me, the food sounds less healthy. East Farms no longer has the salad bar, which was very popular. Even a pre-made salad would be great, for all grades. Also, there is only one sandwich offered each day for those who don't like the hot lunch. One of my daughters really misses that they are not allowed to buy seconds anymore, so she can't go back up to buy an extra item that she didn't buy with the meal. I will go in and have lunch at East Farms to get a first hand look at the food. Liz Burt
Kr September 11, 2012 at 03:29 PM
My 6th grader used to love the baked potato bar and says that it's terrible this year. She said the cheese tasted like plastic. She has decided to bring lunch instead of buying. So much for the improvements.
Ann C. Jett September 11, 2012 at 11:34 PM
I received mixed reviews from my 5th graders. As we are into the second week of school, my children have brought lunch from home twice. As the year goes on, I am hopeful that they will be open to trying new things on the menu. I was disappointed to see that there will be a price increase. I guess it depends how you look at it - you can send them in with a homemade lunch - the cost of which can vary depending upon what you send and where you shop or see the increase in buying lunch compares.
Kaitlin Glanzer (Editor) September 12, 2012 at 02:42 AM
Hi Ann and others, please note the above correction noting that the cost of producing the lunches is increasing, though for this year, the price will stay the same.
Lisa September 12, 2012 at 02:51 AM
My 6th grader doesn't seem to like the new food. She says it taste weird and a lot of children are not buying lunches cause they do not like it either. I'm fine with her bringing since it saves me money, but the kids looked forward to certain things before and they just don't taste right now :(
Amy Rosenfield September 12, 2012 at 11:41 AM
Both my 7th grader and 10th grader have been making their lunches at home. Mostly because they said the lines are ridiculous. But my HS student says the size of the wraps have shrunk and she hates the new tables with the attached chairs, no way to fit everyone at the table.

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