Students have say in what’s on their plate

With the contract of a new food service provider to be decided, students were called on to help with the decision.
Posted on 05/18/2023
Students are served food in the District Services Center.By Gary Weckselblatt

With the contract of its food services provider concluding on June 30, the Quakertown Community School District came up with a rather unique way to see who would be serving student breakfasts and lunches in the future.

During the week of May 8, three contractors each had one day to stop by the District Services Center and put their best food forward to impress not only administrators and employees but students as well. Students from Quakertown Community High School, Strayer Middle School, the Sixth Grade Campus, and Neidig and Pfaff elementary schools were part of the taste testing.

“It was a really good experience because you get to have a say in what you want to eat,” said Amelia Bodnar of the SGC.

QCHS senior Kylie Longenbach agreed. “I like having a voice,” she said. “Getting students’ opinions will improve the food quality.”

QCHS junior Grace White said “There are times people complain about lunch, but here we’re able to make a difference. This is really good.”

Following a Request For Proposals, the QCSD business office chose three finalists to compete for the job of feeding students beginning the first day of school on August 28. They are Whitsons Culinary Group, The Nutrition Group, and Chartwells, the current provider.

The district expects the School Board approval to be made on June 8, when the 2023-24 budget is on the agenda.

During the competition, each provider had the kitchen available to prepare the food that was served in the DSC’s Community Room. Each chef or company representative explained their menus and gave students and district employees the opportunity to ask questions.

“What’s the nutritional value for all this?” asked Alex Shiroff of the SGC. “I like to watch what I eat. I like to choose what I have for lunch.”

Many students, particularly the younger ones, broadly smiled when served their food. And they weren’t shy about giving their opinions. In fact, all participants in the food tasting filled out questionnaires for the business office.

One afternoon, Quakertown Elementary School third-grader Thiago Grabon was furiously writing down his thoughts about the chicken and rice. “It’s really good,” he said.
Lorie Olexson, assistant business administrator, said the idea to include students is something that worked well with a former employer so she wanted to try it here. She changed things up by including greater student representation compared to adults.

“It gives them a chance to taste the offerings and let us know what they want to see more of,” she said. “They’re the ones who are going to be eating it, so we wanted to hear what they had to say.”

Business Administrator Dawn Young said students “have a voice in it, and we thought it would be a good experience for them. They seemed to be making the most of the moment, and had a wonderful time. We don’t often get to work with students, so this was a nice experience to see how happy they were to be part of something.”

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or [email protected].
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