Rethinkers ink pact with RSD and ARAMARK to use local food in 37 school cafeterias

By Jessica Williams, The Lens staff writer |

The school ratings are out – and, no, we’re not talking LEAP scores.

Student reformers from Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools, a coalition of students advocating upgrades in school food choices, on Thursday released their 2011 cafeteria ratings for nine schools.

The report card, created with help from students with Tulane University’s School of Public Health, was accompanied by announcement of a big victory by the “Rethinkers,” as they’re known: a landmark agreement signed with ARAMARK, the Recovery School District’s food provider, to bring fresh, local produce to 37 schools in the district at least twice a week.

The agreement is another step in Rethink’s working relationship with the public school system. In previous years, former RSD superintendent Paul Vallas agreed to implement some of Rethink’s “Twelve Recommendations” for improved cafeteria food, including a ban on the use of “sporks” – the hard-to-use spoon/fork hybrid. Other Rethink recommendations that have been accepted include requiring hand-washing sinks in cafeterias and making garden plots part of plans for new schools.

Schools that received the highest grades on the 2011 report card were the Samuel Green and Arthur Ashe charter schools and Langston Hughes Academy. These schools were applauded for freshly cooking and preparing cafeteria food on site, and for their on-site vegetable gardens. All three of these schools use Sodexho as their food service provider.

Schools who scored on the lower end included Edgar P. Harney Spirit of Excellence Academy, a charter school, the RSD direct-run Fannie C. Williams Elementary, and New Orleans Charter Science and Math High School (also known as SciHigh) which answers to the Orleans Parish School Board. Both Harney and Williams receive food services from ARAMARK, while SciHigh receives food from New Orleans Public Schools’ in-house service.

Joseph A. Craig Elementary, with food by ARAMARK, was ranked the most improved of all the schools graded.

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