The Wellesley Public School district today sent a letter addressed to families and staff that deals with issues raised by Hardy Elementary School students about the quality of the lunches served by food service provider Chartwells at a School Committee meeting last week.
“Given the nature of the concerns expressed, School Administration immediately followed up the next day with our food service provider, Chartwells, our school nurse department, the Health Department and building principal to investigate and eliminate the basis for the concerns and to assure safe and healthy delivery of food service to our students,” the letter says.
At last Tuesday’s meeting, six fifth-graders and one fourth-grader complained that the lunches they were served at school were unappealing, expired, and sometimes making them sick.
They said they’d received expired milk and carrots, that their lunch portions were too small, and that they and their friends had become ill after eating macaroni and cheese, among other things.
The Wellesley Health Department last week said that they’d had no reports of children being sickened by cafeteria food at Hardy Elementary or any other schools. Chartwells, despite a rocky fall that saw a series of health code violations, Chartwells had made good progress and showed no new violations.
The letter, which is signed by the School Administration and School Committee, addresses each complaint. It also invites people to get in touch with questions and concerns at either Superintendent@wellesley.k12.ma.us or School_Committee@wellesley.k12.ma.us.
The full text of the letter below.
Evan Allen can be reached at email@example.com
March 26, 2012 Dear Wellesley Public School Families and Staff, As you may be aware a group of fifth grade students from Hardy School recently presented their specific concerns regarding food service at their school at the March 20 School Committee meeting. This was entirely appropriate given a review of Chartwells’ service to Wellesley Public Schools was listed for the School Committee agenda that evening. Given the nature of the concerns expressed, School Administration immediately followed up the next day with our food service provider, Chartwells, our school nurse department, the Health Department and building principal to investigate and eliminate the basis for the concerns and to assure safe and healthy delivery of food service to our students. Results of that investigation have been shared with the students who presented at School Committee. These results are also being shared with the entire school community to allay any general safety concerns about food service in the schools that may have resulted from media coverage of the original presentation. 1. Students reported that chicken served appeared raw or undercooked on March 20. The Health Department confirmed receiving no complaints of raw chicken in the schools. School Administration did not receive any complaints of raw or undercooked chicken being served prior to the presentation at the School Committee meeting. Most importantly, Chartwells verified that it has and only purchases fully cooked chicken nuggets or patties to be used in the schools.
2. Students reported receiving milk past its expiration date. This was confirmed to have happened on two instances early in the fall. Chartwells had been make aware by school administration of this instance when it occurred last fall. There has been no further recorded recurrence since that time. Students confirmed that they were not reporting a new incident.
3. Students reported small portion sizes. The portion sizes are confirmed to be in compliance with federal rules that govern portion size. All meals meet the FDA mandated regulations for the National School Lunch Program. Students are offered unlimited fruits and vegetables daily.
4. Students reported receiving carrots that were past expiration date. Chartwells confirmed that carrots are labeled with a “best if used by date.” Best by dates mean that the manufacturer recommends using the product by this date for the best flavor quality. But, the product is wholesome and safe long after that date.
5. Students reported becoming ill after eating a macaroni and cheese lunch on Halloween. School Administration confirmed that macaroni and cheese lunch was not served on Halloween. Also, a review of all nurse records for the year show no evidence to support students became ill because of the school lunch served at any time. The Health Department has no record of complaints that students became ill because of the school lunch served to them. Chartwells has no prior record of any complaints, only positive comment, regarding the quality of the macaroni and cheese.
6. Students reported not liking the cold lunch options. The cold lunch options are limited at this time. Due to limited equipment and ensuring all items maintain proper temperatures we are limited in what we can serve at the elementary schools. We anticipate improvement to kitchen equipment that will allow cold lunch options to be expanded in the future.
We thank our students for bringing their concerns to our attention so that we could address them. We also thank Chartwells and the Health Department for working with the School Department to deliver safe and healthy food options to our students. We continue to strive to improve that service to assure every child has healthy options he or she will enjoy. Toward that end, we welcome your comments to the Superintendent@wellesley.k12.ma.us or School_Committee@wellesley.k12.ma.us accounts. We also encourage our students and staff to not hesitate to let us know when there are any health concerns regarding food service so those can be addressed immediately.
School Administration and School Committee for the Wellesley Public Schools