Is the rise in lunch prices warranted?

New lunch company brings changes


New changes to the lunch room: Students buying lunch in the South Cafeteria. The new food company, Quest Food Management Services, has about 120 contracts. These include contracts with New Trier High School, DePaul College Prep, Saint Ignatius College Prep, University of Indianapolis, and more.

From the beginning of the school year it was evident that there was a major change in the lunchroom: the prices.

The new lunch prices came with a new company: Quest Food Management Services, the 33rd fastest growing food management company in the country, according to District Manager of Quest Food, Jesus Ortega.

“There’s always a contract with [lunch] companies and they only have so much time to do the work they do,” Principal Dr. Jerry Lee Anderson said. “When their contract is up we can go out to bid to see if we can get new companies…in this case a new company was selected based upon what they [Quest Food] had to offer.”

With the new company came the creation of the food committee. The committee is made up of separate student and parent committees; its purpose is to give feedback to Quest Food about what they can improve on.

“One thing that separates us [from the last food company] is that we like to have food committee meetings,” Ortega said. “The more we meet with the food committee, the faster we can become better partners with the school.”

The first meeting, held on Sept. 3, resulted in changes to some food products. The fries have changed to a smaller cut, and a $2.00 Viking burger has been added to the menu.

Senior Isaac Latman attended the meeting and said it was a good starting point for addressing students’ needs.

“The first meeting was not the stopping point for the mission of the food committee. There’s going to be more meetings which will be more effective. The first meeting was just goal setting and creating the agenda the school year,” Latman said.

At the meeting, a student mentioned that some students may not be able to afford a $5 lunch everyday. The representatives of Quest Food said there is a $4.75 meal option that includes a beverage and a side.
However, Latman believes there should be more than one $4.75 meal option everyday so that students can have a full meal.

“I and my friends find ourselves hungry sometimes after staying under the $5 mark. Typically my lunches cost $6.50 and to me that is a problem,” he said. “I appreciate the increased quality of Quest Food and the employees of Quest are fantastic. My only complaint lies within the prices.”

Many students don’t know exactly why the new food company charges more than Chartwells, the food supplier from last year. According to Ortega, the rise in prices is due to the food, labor, and items such as paper goods, cleaning supplies, and other direct expenses. Food accounts for about half of their costs and the rest goes to labor and other expenses.

“I don’t know what the previous company’s mottos are, but they left some of their products here and the quality of their food is different,” Ortega said. “We use high quality products. In the food committee meeting, we brought some of the products that were used previously and we also brought our products so that the students could do a taste test comparison.”

With the addition of Quest Food, the school doesn’t have as much of a say as they did in the past in regards to prices. This is because Quest Food is a self-sufficient company, Anderson said.

“We’re not subsidizing the food costs, but we were in the past. [For example], if a hamburger costs $5, but I’m really only charging you $2, then I’m paying $3 on the back end through subsidies,” she said. “If you stop those subsidies, all of a sudden the price of the hamburger has to go up because the company is self-sufficient and they are not getting subsidies.”

Ortega said one of his goals for the rest of the year is to serve what the students want and added that their “door is always open.”

“We have a good amount of flexibility on what we can do, so I want to make sure students are satisfied with the program and that we are serving the best possible quality products at the best value,” he said.
If you have any questions, concerns, feedback, or comments regarding lunch products, email [email protected].