The subject of the nutritional value of school lunches has generated controversy from the public and some West Windsor-Plainsboro School Board members as the board weighed a new nutrition policy and considered two bids for the contract to provide the lunches at its June 13 meeting.
West Windsor resident and Farmer's Market co-founder Beth Feehan urged the school board to take into account parents' perspective when considering a food service provider.
In a letter to the editor, Feehan wrote that "information about these bids has not been shared with the parents of the district, who are concerned about the quality of the food being served and have requested that a parent represent their concerns on the committee reviewing the bids."
Feehan voiced concerns about Sodexho, the company that has served the district for the past five years and is one of two finalists still being considered for the next five. "[Sodexho is] capable of making school districts do what they require," wrote Feehan, "rather than the opposite, often with the lowest food cost possible being the goal to get to the desired profit."
Pomptonian is the other company in the running. Once the decision and negotiations are complete, WW-P will enter a one-year contract, renewable for up to four more years. Whichever company gets the bid will have to adhere to stricter standards than in the past. All indications are that the school board will adopt the nutrition policy which was given a first reading on Tuesday, June 13, the last meeting during the regular school year.
The first reading did not pass without objection. Board member Stan Katz raised concerns about two points of policy. He disagreed with the wisdom of including the following sentence: "The Board recommends that physical education or recess be scheduled before lunch whenever possible, and be available to all students."
Katz says the district cannot accommodate the scheduling burden that policy would create. Moreover, he sees no reason for the recommendation. After deliberation, he says, most board members were in agreement with him. Changes may be made to the policy, but it is unlikely that they will be great enough to require another first reading.
Its second reading is scheduled for Tuesday, June 27. The board will then vote to adopt, change, or reject the policy. The public will be given another chance to comment at the June 27 meeting.
The nutrition policy states that the school will no longer sell or distribute any product which lists sugar as its first ingredient. The district has already converted what were formerly soda machines to vend healthier beverages. This does not apply to soda machines in teacher's lounges.
While some school districts have put into place tighter restrictions than those mandated by the state, WW-P will follow the same guidelines in the next school year. This allows for sugary products to be sold as part of fundraisers, or included on the menu during cultural events or celebrations.