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Heading out for lunch at EDSS

First came the battle to save the lunch ladies. Then complaints about the outside contractor that replaced them at Elmira District Secondary School. That was followed by a menu change that drove even more students out of the school at lunchtime. Now, with classes just having resumed, there’s been no choice but to look elsewhere for lunch.

The mass exodus from the school at lunchtime could be coming to an end as early as next week, however, as the school board rolls out a new food-services provider.

EDSS students at the school’s vending machines during lunch. [elena maystruck / the observer]
EDSS is among the group of 12 Waterloo Region District School Board locations where ARAMARK Canada has been hired on to offer students new brand-name food options such as Pizza Pizza, Subway and Extreme Pita, along with its own brands “Kickin’ Chicken” and “Pastalicious.”

Students were informed on the first day of school that cafeteria services may be limited for a couple of weeks due to staffing issues. WRDSB spokesperson Abigail Dancey said this week services should be up and running by the end of the month. In the meantime students are still able to use vending machines or choose to venture off school property for lunch.

“It could be a range of things anything from having enough staff, having all of the staff in place at all of the schools in order to support the full implementation,” she explained.

The delay was expected, given the changeover.

“It’s just a matter of getting in there, setting things up, making sure that things are in place to be able to handle [the new program],” said Dancey.

EDSS vice-principal Heidi Kolb says full lunch room services at EDSS will resume as early as next week.

“We actually met our new supervisor today, she’s been selected and she’s a local lady too, which is kind of neat,” Kolb said of the new cafeteria staff.

JC Vending, last year’s vendor, had to change their menu options in order to comply with the 2011 Policy Program Memorandum 150 (PPM 150) outlined by the Ministry of Education in order to integrate healthy food options in schools.

The legislation saw to it that students would no longer be able to purchase sugary pops and chocolate bars on school property. This year, the board hopes of create a middle ground between attractive food options and nutritional benefits by hiring a new vendor, Dancey said, expanding on the idea of making nutrition attractive to students while at the same time keeping them on school property at lunchtime.

“It’s an innovative way to attract young people, enjoy a variety of foods. If we can offer a variety of foods to them then they are more likely to stay in the building which of course increases revenue for our school, for our student activities but also ensures student safety because they’re not out in the community walking around either,” Kolb explained.

For any ARAMARK products to be allowed on school property they must comply with PPM 150 legislation, something that will be easy for the company, according to Karen Williams, director of nutrition program development at ARAMARK.

“It’s something we’re more than familiar with because we’ve helped in the writing of PPM 150. We’ve implemented it in about 150 high schools in Ontario already,” she explained, adding that the menus focus on colorful vegetables and fruit, whole grains, leaner proteins and high fiber.

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