Food Services: Focus on nutritious and delicious food, and sustainability

Food Service will be provided by Whitsons this year at Newton Public Schools. Whitsons was selected as the new vendor in May mainly because they promised to focus on serving nutritious and delicious food, keeping sustainability a priority and ensuring students are at their best. School Connections played an active role in advocating for this, and now our job is to make sure this becomes a reality. One of the ways we will be doing it is by participating in the recently formed Food Service Advisory Group (FSAG), which has representatives from all Newton Schools.

If you would like to provide feedback, ask questions or express concerns about the new food service provider at your school, please complete this form created by FSAG: Food Service Community Comment Form

Check out the updated website where you can find menus, allergy information and more.

Here is an excerpt from Whitsons’ Welcome page:

Food Waste Reduction 

Whitsons is committed to doing our part when it comes to food loss and waste reduction. By keeping wholesome and nutritious food in our communities and out of our landfills, we are helping address far-reaching impacts on food security, resource conservation, and climate change. As a U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champion, Whitsons is striving to reduce food loss and waste in all operations by 50 percent by 2030 through activities targeting the prevention of food loss and waste before it arises, recovery of wholesome otherwise wasted food for donation, and recycling of food loss and waste to other uses such as animal feed, compost, and energy generation.

Whitsons is pleased to introduce Meatless Monday to your school cafeteria!

Meatless Monday is a science-based public health initiative associated with Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. Its goal is to reduce chronic preventable diseases by encouraging less consumption of meat. This campaign will enable school staff and students to make even more nutritious choices, as well as help improve the health of the planet. By adopting Meatless Monday, we are helping to move towards a more sustainable food system and healthier eating habits that last a lifetime.

Meatless Monday will feature meal options made without meat each Monday. To be clear, dishes with meat will still be offered on Mondays; we are just providing new meatless options. We hope that students will enjoy our new meatless menu offering and will support the Meatless Monday campaign along with us.

Food Service Advisory Group starting June 2019

Newton PTOs are partnering with NPS administration and the School Committee to form a Food Service Advisory Group (FSAG). The purpose of this group is to create a two-way dialogue between families and NPS food service partner–Whitsons Culinary Group–so that food service in the Newton Public Schools meets expectations and can be continuously improved. The group will comprise representatives from each school, a School Committee representative, and a Whitsons’ representative. Representatives from FSAG will periodically meet with NPS staff and Whitsons’ staff to share feedback gathered by the school representatives.

Our Voices Heard: New Food Services Contract Will Include Sustainability

Newton Public Schools announced this week the selection of a new food service provider for our school cafeterias.  Whitsons Culinary Group will begin serving our students in the Fall.

Green Newton School Connections–with the help of parents, educators and students–had advocated strongly for a commitment to sustainability and healthy food in the next food service contract. In a letter to the School Committee in March, GN School Connections stressed the need for sustainability in the school lunch contract, including more fresh and locally sourced ingredients and healthier choices.  They also stressed that the contractor should offer reusable materials that are environmentally friendly when serving the food, improve waste reduction and promote food recovery.

Thanks to all those who voiced themselves, we were pleased that the selection committee took into consideration “their [Whitsons’] commitment to sustainable food and environmental practices” as well as the quality of the food offered. According to Liam Hurley, Assistant Superintendent and CFAO, Whitsons “proposes to focus on food waste reduction, recycling, and container reuse.”

It is also a good sign that Whitsons has been serving the Wellesley School District, where they participate in the city’s successful food recovery program. We are exploring the possibility of developing a similar program in Newton, by working with the Newton Public Schools, its food service vendor and other non-profits to expand food recovery networks throughout the Greater Boston Area. Having Whitsons as a partner would likely make the introduction of the program in Newton smoother.

We invite everyone to contact the School Committee ([email protected]) to express your approval for a service provider dedicated to sustainability and the health of our children. Let the School Committee know that we will hold them accountable for following through on their promises.

We Need Sustainability in Next School Lunch Contract

The the current contract for food services in Newton Public Schools expires later this year. NPS put out a FRP (Food Service Request for Proposal) group and two proposals came in last week: one from Sodexo, the current provider, and one from Whitsons, the former provider. On March 28, the the working group who is in charge of hiring the new food services management company for Newton schools interviewed representatives from both companies.Green Newton School Connections understands that choosing a food service provider is an important decision that affects the life of thousands of students in our district, because they need and deserve the best quality of food. School Connections also believes that our district needs stronger waste and sustainability practices from in schools cafeterias.School’s Connections sent a hard copy of letter below to Liam Hurley and David Stickney in advance of the selection of a food service provider for the Newton Public Schools. We also know that many NNHS students have written persuasive letters to school committee member Matthew Miller, stressing the need for stronger waste and sustainability practices from our food provider.

On the sustainability side, we want to see NPS food services:

  1. improve the way they deliver the food,
  2. find reusable materials that are environmentally friendly,
  3. encourage students to bring their own cups, mugs and utensils — and offer a discount if they do,
  4. avoid single use plastic,
  5. work with Sustainability Director Waneta Trabert and the city on best recycling practices,
  6. use compostable materials as much as possible, and again, work with Ms. Trabert on a comprehensive composting system,
  7. ban straws with the exception of students with particular disabilities that require straws,
  8. ban water bottles (especially in vending machines as they use excess energy).

On the food side, we want to see:

  1. better quality of food, not necessarily endless choice,
  2. more fresh ingredients,
  3. more locally sourced ingredients,
  4. less packaging,
  5. less processed food,
  6. less food waste,
  7. vendor promotion of food recovery.

As we state in our letter, “We believe Newton MUST be a leader in sustainable practices and choose a sustainable food service provider.”

Tell the School Committee Today that the Next Food Service Contract Must Include Sustainability

On March 28, the the working group who is in charge of hiring the new food services management company for Newton schools will be interviewing representatives from Sodexo and Whitens (the two companies that sent proposals) in order to determine which vendor we will be moving forward with once the current contract with Sodexo expires later this year.

While the interview is not open to the public, Matthew Miller, from the School Committee, feels that the parent/student/community voice needs to be heard. As such, they have assembled a form to collect questions.

The GN School Connections would like the following questions addressed but we would love additional questions regarding sustainability in the cafeterias from you. The more we raise our collective voice, the more we will be heard, so please submit your questions.

  • Would the Food Service Provider be prepared to participate in food recovery and composting programs?
  • What commitments can the Food Service Provider make to reduce trash generated in cafeterias, including from plastic forks, straws, milk cartons, etc.?

Please send your questions here

More information is available at: http://bigelowpto.org/2019/03/food-service-request-for-proposal/