Fresher and healthier student food on way to Barrington District 220
Barrington Area Unit District 220 students are expected to see better meals as a result of new food service companies hired for the 2019-20 academic season.
District officials said the goal was to move away from prepared food in favor of fresher, healthier and higher quality offerings for students.
Under Quest Food Management Services Inc., Barrington High School will get a coffee bar and a menu possibly including beef and chicken roasted on the premises, bubble tea and a sushi station. This food program was seen by District 220 officials who visited Quest clients New Trier High School in Winnetka and Glenbrook South High School in Glenview.
Quest will 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. Quest will pay an estimated $65,000 for the coffee bar construction and expenses of new food-service signs at Barrington High.
Mike McTaggart, owner of Lombard-based Quest, said the company prepares as much food as possible from scratch, resulting in better taste and value. He said Italian beef has become a specialty and that the freshly roasted chicken often is pulled and used for a fiesta bar with taco salads and burritos made to order.
"Kids look for value," McTaggart said. "They look to trust food. And if you do good food, they buy more food. And that makes the whole thing move quicker and better."
Barrington High sophomore Ana Maria Mitoraj said she was among 10 students who sampled Glenbrook South's food this week. She ate pasta with marinara sauce and ice cream.
"It was incredible," Mitoraj said. "When you have cafeteria food, you expect nothing great. My friends and I were joking about putting it on a grading scale and we gave it a solid 'A.' For the portions that we got and the quality of food, it was really worth the money we would have spent on it. And we even had so much extra that was I able to finish it for dinner."
She added that she's "not the biggest fan of the food" in the current cafeteria and usually just buys snacks.
District 220 board members this week approved hiring Quest for Barrington High and Sodexo North America for the elementary and middle schools. The elementary and middle schools will stay on the National School Lunch Program that provides reimbursements for students eligible for free and reduced-price meals.
While operating under the federal restrictions, Sodexo will upgrade meals and offer more fresh fruit and vegetables to the younger students, district officials said. Free and reduced-price meals still will be served at Barrington High, despite the school's withdrawal from the federal program.
Quest and Sodexo will bill District 220 about a combined $2.1 million in the next school year. However, the district projects coming out ahead by roughly $460,000 from food sale revenue and federal reimbursements.
LeeAnn Taylor, the district's director of fiscal services and asset management, said the food service changes stem from a long research process that included feedback from a parent menu advisory group she led.
"After three years of work, I just have to take a minute to thank all the people that worked really, really hard on this," Taylor said. "Just a great journey and we're excited for our students."