Dist. 220 plans to boost quality, choices for school meals
More variety and healthier choices for students are expected from food service operators starting in the next academic year in Barrington Area Unit District 220.
At Barrington High School, a new food provider recommended by top District 220 administrators could mean a coffee bar and menu options possibly including beef roasted on the premises, sushi and bubble tea in 2019-20.
District 220's assistant superintendent of business services, David Bein, said getting away from prepared food in favor of higher quality and fresh offerings for school lunches will allow students to have "the right kind of fuel for learning."
"There is research that connects students who are not hungry and who are well fed to higher academic achievement, better student growth," Bein said at a District 220 board session this week.
LeeAnn Taylor, the district's director of fiscal services and asset management, said the food service changes proposed for the next academic year are a result of a three-year research process that included feedback from a parent menu advisory group she led.
Survey results indicated a desire for the district's providers to move from processed food toward fresh offerings and to have meals made on site.
Bein and Taylor are recommending District 220 contract with Quest Food Management Services Inc. for the high school. Quest would have kitchen creativity because Barrington High is dropping out of the federal National School Lunch Program that has restrictions on such things as portion sizes.
Officials from Quest clients New Trier High School in Winnetka and Glenbrook South High School in Glenview provided positive comments in reference checks by District 220 officials. Bein said he was impressed with the responsiveness of Quest, which added bubble tea at Glenbrook South after a student's suggestion
Taylor and Bein visited Glenbrook South this week at lunchtime, where they sampled a ramen bowl, sandwiches and other dishes.
"The panini was outstanding," Bein said. "Really, really good. Also, the spicy chicken sandwich was really excellent."
Sushi stations are available to students at Glenbrook South and New Trier. A sushi chef even goes to New Trier once a week, Bein said.
Bein checked out New Trier's kitchen when an executive chef assigned to the school pulled three beef roasts and chickens from the ovens. Bein also viewed New Trier's coffee bar.
Under Quest's proposal, the company would pay an estimated $65,000 for construction of a coffee bar and expenses of new food-service signs at Barrington High.
District 220's elementary and middle schools will stay on the National School Lunch Program that provides federal reimbursements for students eligible for free and reduced-price meals. Sodexo North America would provide upgraded meals and offer more fresh fruit and vegetables to the younger students.
Free and reduced-price meals will be served at the high school even without it being on the federal program, Bein said.
As the lowest responsible bidders, Quest and Sodexo would bill District 220 about a combined $2.1 million in the next school year. However, the district projects coming out ahead by about $460,000 from food sale revenue and federal reimbursements.
District 220 board members likely will vote on the contracts April 16.