Haverhill Students’ Meal Options Improve Despite National Supply Chain Shortages

File photograph. (Image licensed by Ingram Image.)

Haverhill school students are receiving healthy meals despite shortages related to supply chain bottlenecks endured by the city’s food services department.

The Haverhill School Committee heard last Thursday from Whitson Food Services District Manager Joseph Armenti. He discussed issues the company has faced over the past year.

“It’s been a challenging year for everyone. Nationwide shortages have affected the ability of certain food items. Supply issues that you’ve heard about throughout the country. It’s especially challenging for school systems because of the quantity of meals we serve and the nutrition standards that we have,” he explained.

Despite these issues, Armenti said, his team carried on throughout the last coronavirus surge.

Anna Perracchio, a nutritionist with the company, said the goal is to provide a variety of healthy choices for students. These include daily sandwich options with soup or salad as well as hot meals, including a vegetarian entrée and multiple fruit and vegetable choices and a salad bar. She told the Committee students taking part in the lunch program has been strong.

“The participation rate at the high school is around 86% of students getting lunches and then around district-wide, it’s about 75%,” she said.

Perracchio said they have also introduced some new procedures to ensure students enjoy their meals. These include surveying elementary school students about their likes and dislikes and increasing culturally diverse foods as menu options.

The company also plans to add technological innovations to improve student dining, including video menus in the cafeteria and a smoothie machine at the high school. Perracchio said they have also created a virtual suggestion box where students can present their ideas and requests.

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