Claude Knight

Maschio’s Representatives explain school lunch government guidelines to SBP students.

Adrian Vasquez and Walter Pierce

Representatives of the company that produces school lunch for St. Benedict’s, responding to criticism and a survey distributed by The Benedict News, have offered to expand selections for the menu, with healthy and tastier offerings including chicken and pasta Alfredo, a California steak sandwich, a fruit platter, hummus and pita chips, and a veggie burger. In fact, the company has already supplied the cafeteria staff with thermal bags to better transport heated food and to focus on improved food quality.

Veggie Burger sample served by the cafeteria staff. (Claude Knight)

“We are here for you,” said Kevin Dyal, the area supervisor for Maschio’s, during a meeting with student leaders and student journalists in the St. Benedict’s cafeteria. “Let me know of any problem that you might have with the school lunch, so we could fix the issue.”

Editors and reporters from The Benedict News, along with student leaders from the Girls and Boys Division, learned of these developments at a Thursday, Oct. 28 meeting in the cafeteria held by Maschio’s Food Services in coordination with Venus Valenzuela, head of the St. Benedict’s cafeteria staff. This meeting was called to have St Benedict’s student leaders test samples of food, and give feedback on how to solve the school lunch issue.

“The majority of the food was good,” said Justin Crespo, Senior Group Leader, following the meeting. “Ever since the meeting, we’ve had excellent changes and, through communication with the cafeteria and Maschio’s, they’ve shown their care for the community.”

SBP student leaders and Benedict News staff enjoy samples at the meeting. (Claude Knight)

Mr. Dyal, the area supervisor for Maschio’s, and Patricia Fragioudakis, director of operations for Maschio’s led the meeting with the support of Ms. Valenzuela and the cafeteria staff, offering many courses of food for tasting. They first explained that Maschio’s is employed by the school through a contract to operate and produce lunch and breakfast for about one thousand students. They also stated that St. Benedict’s receives funding that allows for free lunches as a part of the National School Lunch Program. The program has strict guidelines that all contractors must abide by. On the U.S. Department of Agriculture website, it states that, “The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day.” Maschio’s is required to provide fruit and vegetables along with the lunch served each day. This is to ensure that each student gets the nutrients they need for the day.

Responding to an Oct. 1 electronic survey asking students in the Boys and Girls divisions to express their opinions on the quality and quantity of the food served during lunch, students overwhelmingly responded with negative feedback. Ms. Fragioudakis explained that the reason for the difference in the food from previous years is because of a “supply chain issue.” 

“Something you may be getting this year could very well be different than it was even last week and last year.” This means that sometimes, Maschio’s is not able to provide their number one option item for a meal, which leads to the company having to pick their 2nd or 3rd option. Ms. Fragioudakis explained that there will even be changes to a-la-carte items, items you can purchase on the side, because different food companies have been negatively impacted due to COVID-19. Also due to students eating lunch in group rooms and not going through the cafeteria line for lunch, a-la-carte items cannot be offered. 

The Maschio representatives throughout the meeting made it clear that the company is open to change and wants all concerns to be taken first to Ms. Valenzuela at St. Benedict’s. At the beginning of the meeting, participants were handed a packet regarding menu suggestions and were told they would be given samples to taste. The taste test included: Fruit & Cheese Platter, Hummus Platter, Veggie Burger, Grilled Chicken Salad, Popcorn Chicken w/Mashed, California Steak, Sweet & Sour Chicken W/ Rice, and Pasta Alfredo W/ Chicken. Some of these samples might be included in the menu and that is why members of the meeting were asked to give their feedback. 

Hummus Platter served with carrots, pita chips, and red pepper. (Claude Knight)

The company wants students to tell them which of the samples should be made a permanent part of the lunch menu. The Benedict News will be sending out a separate survey querying the student body on this question, along with more detailed questions about eating habits.

After the last sample, the meeting concluded. Maschio’s is open to more meetings in the future and wants to hear more from the students. They encourage students to contact Venus and the kitchen staff to address any concerns and give suggestions.

 “Any good or bad I want it to come to us (the kitchen/Maschio.) The simplest or biggest concerns, just bring it to us,” said Mr. Dyal.