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Farmington students in food fight with school lunch provider

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FARMINGTON--A fight is brewing in the cafeteria at Farmington High School, but it's not with food--it's about food. Several students say they've had enough with what's cooking in the kitchen.

The school's lunch provider, Chartwells, boast fresh, nutritious and delicious meals on its website, but diners say it's anything but.

"I know a lot of students have found hairs in their food," said Eugnie Chen, a senior.

"I've had raw chicken, uncooked pasta," said Cristiana Kamais, also a senior.

Freshman Sam Grabowski-Clark said he brings his own lunch to school, but is concerned for his friends. "Just high, high in salt like I said. Just really poor quality food that I wouldn't even feed a dog," he said.

At least a third of the student body agrees. Hundreds are on board with a school lunch boycott next week. "Hopefully all the students don't buy food that day and kind of prove our point and they lose money so that they negotiate with us," said Kamais.

She and others told Fox CT they're not happy with the way Chartwells handles lunchroom transactions, either. "We're not allowed to charge food anymore, so if they don't have money, that results in their food being thrown away," Kamais said of what she calls "public humiliation" by lunchroom employees.

Those concerns will also be on the table when upperclassmen speak with administrators, including the school's Chartwells director, about food quality on Thursday. Some students met with the the high school principal earlier this week, too.

Boycott organizers told Fox CT that no matter the outcome of those meetings, students will continue with the planned Chartwells boycott to show they're serious about this food fight.

"A lot of my friends eat food from the school. Some of them are just kind of apathetic about it. They're just like, 'I need to eat something in the middle of the day. I'm really hungry, so this is all. That's it.' But it shouldn't be a take it or leave it thing," said Grabowski-Clark.

In a statement, Kathleen Greider, superintendent of Farmington Public Schools, said the Chartwells lunch program has "very favorable participation levels" and that administrators and Chartwells "will continue to work closely with the group of students expressing concerns." She wrote multiple times that district officials "deeply respect" students' opinions.

Chartwells responded to requests for comment on Thursday evening. Here is the company's statement:

Chartwells is dedicated to the health and wellness of the students of Farmington. We have a good relationship with students and have remained open to discussions, including regular surveys and a forum today with the concerned students.

Since the start of our partnership, we have worked with the district to bring a team of registered dietitians, culinary professionals and skilled operators to deliver a great food program and adhere to USDA requirements. We continue to enhance our options, including the recent introduction of a grab-n-go salad bar, yogurt and granola bar, hand-pressed turkey burgers and a once-weekly brunch, all the while expanding the use of fresh ingredients. As an example, we have sourced over $85,000 of produce from local farms. We are committed to open and productive dialogue, and will continue to work with the Farmington school community to ensure the best quality meal program.

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3 comments

  • Sam Mihailoff

    I guess it comes down to the old adage – – order what you want – eat what you get
    Cafeteria food never was ****
    as for credit? When did you ever go into any eating establishment and get credit? The only one ever to pull that off was Wimpey!

    • Patrick M

      The way it used to be was that if you were short you were charged and required to pay as soon as you could. Meaning they received their money regardless. Now the food is thrown away and students are forced to starve if they are short of cash.
      There’s a clear distinction between a public school cafeteria and a restaurant. The town pays for the service to exist, so if the service doesn’t fit the town’s standards then they have a right to modify it.
      Public institutions deserve to suffer if they fail, it is our right to fail them.

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