Parents asking for healthier food for Redding/Easton schools

REDDING -- Redding and Easton parents are asking their schools to serve healthier, locally grown and prepared-from-scratch foods to their children.

As the present food service contract with the three schools' food provider Sodexo, Inc., is due to expire on June 30, the tri-district school boards of Redding, Easton and Region 9, have formed a subcommittee to review healthier food choices in selecting the next food service provider.

The sub-committee is comprised of one board member from each school district and Director of Finance and Operations for the three districts,
Peggy Sullivan , as an ex-officio member.

"What we're doing goes along with the national trend to make school lunches healthier," Sullivan said Tuesday,. "This is an extension of the Healthy Schools program we have taken part in with the state for several years now."

Through the Healthy Schools program beverages served in schools are 100 percent natural fruit juices instead of soda. The total calories in and portions of servings provided in the cafeterias, as well as the percentage of fats per serving are now restricted, Sullivan explained.

The new push, championed by parents groups, the Redding Education Foundation and the Easton Education Foundation , is to include less, to no, processed foods and more salad bar offerings.

"We don't want to dictate what the outcome will be," said Kate Ebbott , a member of the Redding Education Foundation, "but we definitely want the boards to conform more to a wellness program for our children's foods."

The REF has offered to pay for a consultant to review the present food service program for its healthy choices and cost effectiveness. It recommends John Turenne , a national consultant who was the food service director for Yale University . Turenne converted Yale's cafeteria to serve locally grown, sustainable foods cooked on premises.

"It's not just what we want. It's what the communities want," Ebbott said. "Parents want this, instead of processed foods, brought in pre-prepared and heated in plastic bags and containers, with all of the nutritional value depleted and containing all kinds of additives that have been proven to contribute to obesity and diabetes."

The tri-district, Redding/Easton schools, have recently formalized their participation in the CT Dept. of Agriculture 's Farm to Schools program. The program certifies area farms to sell produce to schools. At this time, the farms are organized by regional locations. But Sullivan said, it is hoped as local farmers learn of Redding and Easton's food service plan, more will sign on with the state, allowing the schools to purchase produce from them.

The subcommittee has been charged with preparing a RFP for submission to a bid process to find a food service company for the 2009-10 school year. That must be accomplished by spring.

"This is not about specific dissatisfaction with Sodexo," Sullivan said. "If they can offer a healthier food program, they will be considered along with other providers."


The first meeting of the tri-district subcommittee is Monday at 7 p.m. at Joel Barlow High School , Route 58, Redding, Room B-109. The meeting is open to the public.

Contact Susan Tuz


or (203) 731-3352.