Hinsdale District 86 Board will rebid cafeteria food contract

Hinsdale High School District 86 may get a new food service provider next school year, but it will not be through the federal lunch program.

The district will go out to bid for food service for the Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South high school cafeterias, for an a la carte style program similar to what is being offered.

The district’s contract with Quest Food Management Services Inc. started in July 2008 and has been extended each year since then. It expires June 30.

The new School Board majority’s preference is to rebid contracts rather than automatically renew them.

Some board members also questioned why the district does not participate in the National School Lunch Program, because some students at both schools receive free and reduced lunches.

District 86 Superintendent Bruce Law said there is not enough time for the district to thoroughly evaluate whether the National School Lunch program is appropriate for District 86. He recommended the district go out for bids for food service for next year, and take more time to explore the federal program.

Hinsdale Central PTO President Nancy Pollak advised school officials they should consult with the people who eat in the cafeteria, namely the students and staff, before they make any decisions about the food service.

She did just that in mid-March, sending out a survey to about 2,200 families whose email addresses she had. The survey asked parents to rate how important the nutrition, quality, price and variety of the cafeteria food is to them. More than 360 people responded to the survey within five days.

On a scale of 1 to 3, where 1 was not important and 3 was extremely important, they rated quality as the most important factor, with a rating of 2.9. Nutrition ranked second with a score of 2.7, followed by variety with a score of 2.5. Price ranked the lowest, with a score of 2.1.

The survey also asked parents which position best reflects their position: I’m happy with the food service program as it is; or I would prefer to have costs lower and have the food program adhere to the National School Lunch Program, realizing it might affect food quality, variety and price; or no response.

Eighty percent, or 278 people, said they were happy with the current program, Pollak said. Ten percent, or 54 people, said they would like lower costs and to participate in the federal program. The rest had no response.

Pollak knows the survey was not scientific. She intended it to be “only directional in nature.” She said she wanted to let people know the district’s food service was being discussed.

About 150 wrote additional comments. They included not wanting the federal government to decide what their children eat, requesting more gluten-free items and wanting a better grade pizza.

She hopes students, staff and parents will be included on committees to discuss what kind of food service the district should offer.

“People have a lot of great things to say, most importantly, the students and the parents who pay for it,” Pollak said. “Have people work with you. I think you will get the best results and people will be happy to be part of the process.”

Parents still can answer the survey in Pollak’s email. If they cannot find it, send an email to Nancy Pollak at pres@hinsdalecentralpto.org.

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