The Herald

Hoboken Public School District

Special Edition: Food Service

Dear Parents and Guardians,


It was brought to my attention this weekend that an article about Chartwells Food Service in a Middlesex County School District was published on NJ.com and received much attention on Hoboken Mommies.


I would like to take this time to provide some background and address a few questions that were sent to me.


Just before I transitioned into the role of Superintendent in Hoboken in 2015, the district was making a change from Sodexo Food Services to Pomptonian Food Services. The main reasons for the switch in food service providers back then was directly linked to a deficit and food quality.


When Pomptonian took over in the district, there were some initial challenges. Pomptonian struggled to create menus that satisfied students at all three levels. Parents continuously provided feedback that there was too much processed food and wanted better quality. After a year or so, Pomptonian hit their stride and everything was working well until last school year.


As a result of the pandemic, Pomptonian along with other food service providers across the country ran into issues with supply chains and providing the same type of quality they were able to achieve in years past. This past spring, Pomptonian's contract was up and our district put out a request for proposals. After a lengthy process, our district selected Chartwells as our new food service provider. In August, Chartwells presented September menus. The options looked extremely promising.


Chartwells is being reviewed by our district's Business Office, as the school year takes off. The Business Office in every school district oversees food services. Our Business Administrator Mrs. Joyce Goode, has visited each of our schools to observe lunch periods. She has also spoken with each principal to get a good sense of what is working well and what needs to be tweaked.


She has learned that Chartwells is knocking it out of the park at Hoboken High School. The operations are smooth and the students are enjoying the vast array of choices and quality. She found that the Middle School food options are also very good, however the school is working to get all students through the lunch line in a timely manner. That is not a food service issue. Rather, the principal and vice principal are working to optimize students' flow throughout the building.


At the elementary level, Ms. Goode has found some areas that are in need of improvement. First, Chartwells may need to consolidate their lunch menus in the first half of the year to ensure that they are adequately ordering supplies. Principals have reported that menu items have run out before all lunch periods are finished. Second, Ms. Goode has identified little things that need to improve such as serving sliced apples to our youngest children, as opposed to whole apples. Third, she has also found that Chartwells is substituting items on the menu at the elementary level when pizza runs out. And fourth, Ms. Goode found that sandwiches needed more deli meat and cheese, and that many of the younger students are not so keen on the salad choices being offered.


Operationally, I have noticed that Chartwells is getting used to our kitchens, which schools the supplies and food orders need to be sent, and how much food is needed for each lunch seating. I have also seen questions regarding student allergies related to Chartwells and comparisons made to Pomptonian. Please be assured that Pomptonian worked with our principals, nurses and Director of Special Services whenever there were children in any given building with allergies. We have protocols in place to ensure that children are safe. I do not believe that Chartwells has communicated appropriately, as they can and will operate just as Pomptonian did.


We called for a meeting with Chartwells last week and will be conversing with their management team tomorrow. Please be aware that poor service, quality and food preparation in one school district, such as that Middlesex County District identified in the NJ.com article that is circulating on Hoboken Mommies, does not reflect all Chartwells locations. We are watching Chartwells entry into the district closely. I am seeing some of the same similar issues that I have seen over the past 18 years as a Superintendent when a new food service provider takes over. I assure you that if there were spoiled or bad food being served, it would be shared with parents and guardians and would be addressed immediately.


New food service providers always need some time to best learn the wants and needs of a district. They need to create menus that are most appropriate for children of all ages. And, they must operationalize new staff and procedures to ensure high quality service.


I will keep you updated and provide you with a summary after tomorrow's meeting with the Chartwells management team. Have a wonderful night.


Sincerely,

Christine Johnson

Superintendent of Schools

Hoboken Public Schools - A District Dedicated to Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships

Our Vision

The Hoboken Public School District will be recognized as a premier educational choice and widely known as a best-practice model for academic growth, high quality instruction, innovative and equitable programs, engagement, facilities and personalized pathways that are essential for college, career and life-preparedness in our ever-changing, interconnected global society.


Our Mission

The Hoboken Public School District will prepare confident and resilient graduates who value academic achievement, embrace challenge, honor diversity, appreciate collaboration, and respectfully contribute to their local and wider communities.


Our District Goals

The Hoboken Public School District will implement a rigorous, relevant and responsive curriculum that meets the needs of all students, fosters personalized pathways for learning, and ensures continuous academic growth.


The Hoboken Public School District will support its diverse staff in professional growth, encourage them to serve as role models, and empower them to provide the highest quality of instruction for our students.


The Hoboken Public School District will develop and implement unique and innovative programs that promote global learning, ensure equitable access, and foster the social, emotional and academic growth of each student.


The Hoboken Public School District will engage and communicate with families and the wider community to bridge understanding and advance partnerships.


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