What’s for lunch? Students have a say

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.”