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A New Look for Westford's Public School Food Service

Between a new website and a new policy getting rid of "pink slime", Westford Public School food service director Patti Donoghue was before the School Committee earlier this week to present what is hoped to be a new chapter for the department that was embr

It’s unclear whether Westford Public School students will return to buying lunches at the level they once did before last year’s food safety controversy, but various changes in the department were on display at Westford’s School Committee meeting on Monday night.

Westford Public School food services director Patti Donoghue was on hand to introduce the department’s new website, and fielded questions from School Committee members on topics ranging from the new resource to the district’s decision to not serve “pink slime” beef causing the district to throw away 27 cases of meat and switching to serving more chicken.

The website, which now offers information about nutrition and other topics in addition to school menus, costs the district $595 a year and could be upgraded to provide additional content for an additional fee.

Otherwise, the main topic of discussion with the website was figuring how to disseminate the news that the new website exists as well as how to increase the website’s e-mailed school menus, which currently go out to 25 parents.

It remains to be seen whether the website can help increase the approximately 2,200 to 2,500 students that currently purchase school lunches on a regular basis, a number that has decreased to the factors ranging from last year’s controversy to a distinterest in many students toward eating properly.

Donoghue noted that school lunch purchases have decreased the most in the Nabnasset, Miller and Robinson Schools, although they were not as low as the levels of lunch purchases at the town’s middle schools.

She also noted that many children don’t finish their meals, whether they purchase them or bring them from home, for reasons ranging from societal pressures to the fact that they spend much of their limited lunch period socializing with their friends.

Other updates included the possibility of growing food for school cafeterias at the Robinson School’s greenhouse, a chance that locally grown produce from Springdell Farm in Littleton could become a part of the menu in the fall and the upcoming switch to point of purchase card sales for students in cafeterias.

The final point was enabled in part thanks to the passage of the Fiscal Year 2013 budget at last month’s Town Meeting and is expected to roll out sometime next year.

Not an advocate April 13, 2012 at 12:18 PM
Processed cheese and chips...is not a lunch!! Less canned good, more fresh organic produce with seasons to add flavor and the variety of meals being offered would help "convince" me to let my children purchase lunch more than just 1-2x month. France public school lunch program is a great place to start as a resource! Many if my friends/parents here in Westford would pay more if it meant their children were eating more healthy
Chris April 13, 2012 at 03:28 PM
They don't finish their lunches because they don't have time! In the lower grades, by the time those little kids have moved through the cafeteria line, especially on popular 'pizza fridays', they have about 5 minutes left to eat. I would love to see more locally grown food and healthier options offered. Nachos and cheese and waffle sticks are not healthy lunches!
Ann Pastore April 13, 2012 at 04:43 PM
I do not understand what this statement (referring to decrease in the number of students purchasing lunch) means: "a distinterest in many students toward eating properly". Does this imply that those children who bring lunch are not eating properly? I would have to disagree with this statement, I believe often times a lunch brought from home is healthier than the lunches purchased in the school. Also, while I agree that many children do like to "socialize with their friends" during lunch, I do not believe this is the main reason that lunches are not finished. There is simply not enough time allotted to lunch in schools today. Children cannot eat at a proper pace and practice mealtime social skills with their peers with the 20 or so minutes allowed for lunch. I know it has been suggested previously, but perhaps removing dessert items like cakes, cookies and puddings and replacing with fruit or yogurt will provide a bit more nutrition to the lunch menu. When running out of time to finish lunch, children may opt to finish the yogurt or orange rather than the piece of cake or pudding and throwing the "healthy" portion of the meal away.
Barbara Evangelista April 13, 2012 at 05:00 PM
I would have signed up ages ago for the emailed menus if someone had simply announced that this service existed (and not by emailing out a link to the updated school billboard like they do now -- that's so useless). Communication is so important. With regard to the menus I don't have issues with "breakfast for lunch" but don't think chips or sweet desserts should be served. I also really wish they would eliminate all foods with artificial food dyes. Too many chemicals in our kids' food these days.
westford resident April 13, 2012 at 06:47 PM
I heard they were getting rid of chocolate milk. I'd rather there be chocolate milk than dessert. My child only gets chocolate milk at school so she will be disappointed.
Dee April 14, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Is it possible to come up with an alternative to standing in line on pizza days to give the students more time to eat? Maybe sell "pizza tickets" ahead of time, have the pizza on the table and collect tickets as they sit down? The time spent in line is an aspect that we night be able to address without adding cost if we think outside the box.
dave April 15, 2012 at 03:21 AM
I find it disconcerting to hear we are paying almost $600 for a 'new food service website'. To me, it seems like a waste of taxpayer dollars.
Amber July 13, 2012 at 07:17 PM
I agree, Ann. My kids - even Matt with his autism-related sensitivities - eat fresh veggies and fruit. Cucumbers, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes NOT frenched in salad dressing (my kids don't like the dressing anyway). Pears, apples, grapes, berries. All summer long my kids get sandwiches on whole wheat bread with fruit, veggies, or soup for lunch. It's NOT expensive and they don't get bored of the limited selection. What is so complex about this process? Corn is NOT a vegetable, it is a grain; eggs are NOT dairy, and I wish they'd start teaching our kids to properly identify food groups if they're going to attempt to teach nutrition. No cupcakes at two parties a year, but daily processed food and dessert. Nice contradictory message to send to our students.
Amber July 13, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Especially when the pretty, healthy food pictured on the site isn't what is actually being served to students.
Jamaal July 13, 2012 at 11:44 PM
Olsen maybe should worry more about how teachers no longer see him as 'on the same page', or on all the drug use in WA, rather than an occasional cupcake in school to celebrate a birthday
Vincent DiRico July 14, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Mr Sylvia, This is the poison I speak of! See the other comment from "Jamaal" below for your convenience (from an different thread). What you gonna do about it? Ideally you'd trace this "Jamaal" user, warn him/her, after more poison ban the account. thanks Vinny Jamaal 7:35 pm on Friday, July 13, 2012 Amber, What seems to have changed in the last 6 years is how incedibly closed lipped the Administration is with information on the drugs, They know its happening because there was a record number of expulsions/exclusions this year but ask for some data (or even an exact number) from Olsen/Antonelli/Harkness and you get next to nowhere. Principal Antonelli is headed for the hot seat from residents in town as there is a current building that is growing tired of his style...

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