New school dining service up and running

Published 2:44 pm Wednesday, September 3, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- A new food service company is in charge of putting breakfast and lunch on the table for many of Niles Community Schools more than 4,000 students.
Chartwells School Dining Services took over after the school district decided to privatize its food service program earlier this year to help balance the school district's budget.
The food service program was previously run by school district employees.
So far, the food service seems to be getting good reviews from students. However, some complained on Tuesday that prices being charged are too expensive.
Elizabeth Durm, an eighth grader, thinks $2.25 cents for a slice of pizza is too much.
Durm said she and some of her friends have their mothers drop off lunch because they find the school lunches are too expensive.
Jennifer Brower has been an executive chef with Chartwells for four-and-a-half years.
She spends much of her time setting things up at Chartwells' new accounts, as well as doing follow up work where it is needed throughout the year.
On Tuesday, she was at Ring Lardner Middle School to help food service employees there get things ready for Tuesday's lunch.
As a chef, she thinks it's important that food service employees communicate with the students.
She said Chartwells puts up a suggestion box at each school so that students can make requests as to what they like to eat.
That may be a request it would be hard for most school meal providers to meet, but Brower said the suggestion boxes help the chefs provide different meals to accommodate different tastes.
Although not completely up and running as planned due to late delivery of some equipment, Brower said each cafeteria in the school district will soon have a total food court system.
Students will have access to a cold deli style sandwich bar, hot foods, as well as a salad bar and ice cream.
Nashaira Verrier, a seventh grader at Ring Lardner, had mozzarella sticks for lunch on Tuesday.
Seated among friends at a table in the school's cafeteria, Verrier said she enjoys being able to buy food from a menu with plenty of choices.
Blake Miller, an eighth grader at Ring Lardner, also thinks the food provided by Chartwells is good.
However, he also thinks it's important students have access to well-balanced meals because it helps students maintain concentration while in class.
Doug Law, the school district's superintendent, said Chartwells, in addition to breakfast, provides type A lunches, which are meals made after federal standards and nutritionally balanced.
Some students qualify for those meals through free lunch programs, he said.
He said the middle and high school also has an a la carte menu.
Law said Chartwell is bringing $60,000 worth of new equipment into the school district, which will help improve the school districts food service program.
J.J. Merimonti is the manager of the school district's food service program.
He said a lot of work has been put into getting the facilities ready before school start.
With 32 new staff members working in 10 different buildings, however, he said it will always take a little while before things settle in.