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Hinsdale Central PTO, South students differ on food service

A student goes through the cafeteria line at Hinsdale South High School. | Kimberly Fornek/Sun-Times Media
A student goes through the cafeteria line at Hinsdale South High School. | Kimberly Fornek/Sun-Times Media

Hinsdale High School District 86 officials may seek input from those who eat in the school cafeterias before choosing a food service vendor for next year.

District 86 received bids from four food vendors to run the cafeterias at Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South.

Quest Food Management Services Inc., the district’s food vendor since July 2008, submitted a bid along with Arbor Management Inc., Aramark and OrganicLife.

Members of the district’s business department will analyze the bids and recommend two finalists to the School Board at its June 2 committee meeting.

The board can then choose one of the companies or solicit input from students and parents through a survey, or an invitation to sample the two finalists’ entrees and food items, said Chief Financial Officer William Eagan.

If the board wants a taste test, Eagan said he would invite about 20 people, including parents, students and faculty, to sample and compare the food.

Eagan said he and the Hinsdale Central PTO will develop survey questions that would be ready to be emailed to District 86 parents, if the School Board authorizes that step June 2.

Meanwhile, he is checking the details of the various bids submitted to verify the portion sizes and quality are comparable.

“We’re checking whether there’s five pieces of pepperoni on the pepperoni pizza,” Eagan said as an example.

At the May 19 School Board meeting, Nancy Pollak, president of the Hinsdale Central PTO, said the overwhelming majority of members at the PTO meeting that day wanted the board to accept the bid from Quest.

“They are a proven partner at our school,” Pollak said.

But some students at Hinsdale South are less happy with the cafeteria food offered by Quest.

Joan Brandeis said she has two sons, a junior and a senior at Hinsdale South. She acknowledged her sons are big — 6-foot, 4-inches and 6-foot, 5 inches — but said not only are the portions too small to fill them up, but also the portions have gotten smaller over the years.

Her oldest son chose to bring his lunch this year, rather than buy it in the cafeteria. He not only was dissatisfied with the portion sizes, he complained the lines were so long, that by the time he got through, he only had five minutes left to eat.

Earlier in the school year, South administrators reported they had adjusted the cafeteria lines at South, so students did not have to wait as long.

Although Hinsdale South Principal Brian Waterman said the administration has not heard complaints about the food in the cafeteria, board member Claudia Manley has. Manley said when she was at a South football game, students who recognized her as the School Board president made a point of telling her they were not happy with the cafeteria food.

They didn’t like the meal deal, Manley said, because of the price, which was too high for the portion.

Eagan said he will try the food in the South cafeteria and observe the lunch lines before the next board meeting.

He also noted male athletes probably have bigger appetites than a small female student who is not playing sports.

The challenge will be to find that balance, he said, so the former has enough to sustain him and the latter is not throwing half the food away.

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