Girl Scouts Propose Healthy Changes To School Lunches

Roselle Park Girl Scouts Junior Troop 40318 spoke at the May 8th Board Of Education (BOE) meeting to present their idea to provide healthy and fresh school lunch options while reducing food waste.

The troop had attended the April 24th BOE meeting but did not have an opportunity to speak. They returned two Tuesdays ago to make their pitch – as part of their Bronze Award objective – to the BOE. The board – following legal protocol – moved to interrupt the regular order of business and allow Junior Troop 40318 to speak before the dais.

Eleven Girl Scouts stood before seven school board members and eight of them, each taking a turn, put their proposal on the record.

Good Evening Board of Education members. We are Girl Scouts in Junior Troop 40318. My name is Sophia. Ava, Jovanna, Sarah, and I are from Robert Gordon School. The rest of our troop – Ying, Kassandra, Kasey, Kaylee, Valerie, Audrey, Natalie, and Megan – are from Sherman School. Even though our troop only has girls who attend two of the three elementary schools, we have an idea that will have a positive effect on all three schools if our ideas are implemented.

We had the opportunity to pursue a service award called a Bronze Award. It is a service project where fifth graders put their energy behind making a positive impact in our community. We came up with our troop project because we explained to our troop leaders we had issues with the lunch program and we thought all students could enjoy lunch more with a few changes.

We did a lot of research throughout the year while we tried to narrow down our service project; we took a trip to the Roselle Park High School cafeteria, interviewed our principals, interviewed Ms. Dodge from Pomptonian, toured the Kean university composter, and surveyed elementary school parents. We also compared our lunches to other public schools in the area – some who order from Pomptonian and some from Maschio’s.

Our suggestions and ideas were mostly supported by parents in our survey, and include:

  1. Pre-ordering lunches to help ensure sufficient lunch options and reduce food waste. Also, there could be a write-in line so families can let food service know what kind of meals their children would mostly like.
  2. Adding a healthy variety including a larger selection of fresh fruits and veggies, better daily vegetarian options, and cultural meals.
  3. Additional review and oversight of food quality.

The older kids don’t always feel satisfied or full at the end of lunch due to portion sizes. Current produce offerings are regularly (weekly) still partially frozen, expired, or the food runs out before all lunch sessions have eaten.

We hope the Board Of Education can help support our ideas to become elementary school policy because for some kids, lunch at school is their only healthy meal and we believe school Lunch purchases would increase when the community is more able to participate in the menu selection, and it gains a reputation for being filling and tasty.

In addition, more variety allows for kids to be full of energy and focus on school. We don’t want to exclude any other people who don’t like or culturally cannot eat what is currently offered. The option to pre-order can help Pomptonian pre-plan so less students will be stuck with an option they do not enjoy.

If, after one month, the Pomptonian lunch does not improve, when are the contracts up and how can we give feedback to you, so you can consider other vendors?

Can we try pre-ordering using the June menu at one of the elementary schools to see if it works?

When completed, the Girl Scouts asked if there were any questions.

Members of the school board inquired about how the troop gathered the information and interviewed the various people, if the troop had heard of other school having the pre-ordering option, how far in advance would pre-ordering be available for, how would lunch waste would be reduced, and if pizza would still be served on Fridays.

A member of the troop stated that pre-ordering used to be at the Sherman School and that students could pre-order a week ahead. Fridays would still allow for pizza but perhaps there could be other options.

In response to a question regarding ‘more vegetarian’ options, the troop stated that currently truly vegetarian options are not available since even the salads have meat in them.

Although not mentioned by anyone on the dais during the Girl Scouts’ presentation, the 2018-19 Food Nutrition Program Contract appointing Pompontian Food Service as the school district’s Food Service Management Company (FSMC) was approved later in the meeting by the school board without discussion.

It is the second year in a row that the contract is listed on the agenda and approved by the BOE without explicitly naming Pomptonian as the FSMC.

At the May 22nd meeting, it was recommended that Pomptonian – or whatever contractor is award the school lunch program – be included in future agenda. At Tuesday night’s meeting, school board members did acknowledge that the contract for the 2018-19 was already set but that there is still an opportunity to propose changes to the school lunch menu.

The Girl Scouts are set to return at one of the two June BOE meetings to get answers and updates to their proposal.