FARMINGTON — Students are calling for a boycott of school lunches this week.
Farmington High School students say the district's food service provider, Chartwells, is not providing quality meals and its policies are too harsh if students don't have enough money in their accounts.
"They're not treating us like humans, they're treating us like a business opportunity," said senior David Casella
Casella created a Facebook page to organize students to not buy food from Chartwells at Farmington High School this week. About 500 people as of Saturday had accepted the invitation to boycott Chartwells.
About a dozen students posted photos on the Facebook page of mold on food and unappetizing entrées they said they bought at school.
In an emailed statement from Chartwells on Oct. 30, the company said it is "dedicated to the health and wellness of the students of Farmington."
School officials met with Casella, and other students, Thursday to hear their concerns and work to resolve the dispute without a boycott.
"A point was made in the meeting that a boycott is going to injure the students who are least prepared to be injured and that is our free and reduced meal kids," said the district's Business Administrator Michael Ryan. "We have upwards of 135 students in that category and certainly we are concerned about that."
Students on the social media page are volunteering to purchase pizzas and other food to share and are encouraging peers to bring two lunches, in order to share with someone who might rely on lunch at school.
"We want to give the food away to make a point, because when people can't afford it, they throw it away," Casella said.
Casella said Chartwells employees have recently begun throwing away food if students don't have enough money in their accounts to pay.
"They recently put a trash can between the two registers and if you can't afford the food, they'll just throw it out," Casella said. "I'm a a senior at this school, I've put hundreds of dollars into the food system, and if I can't afford $3.50 for one day, they're just going to throw it away."
Ryan said school administrators agreed during Thursday's meeting to change the credit policy in the cafeteria at the students' request. High school students will be able to charge up to two meals, elementary schools can recive up to three meals on credit, Ryan said. He also said students always will get something to eat, such as a chesse sandwich.
Ryan explained that some students' debts were excessive and the money to make up the difference is taking from the Board of Education.
Chartwells was first introduced to the school district in 2012, when the school board unanimously agreed to outsource its cafeteria operations to the company based in Charlotte, N.C.
In a Courant article published on June 28, 2012, Superintendent Kathleen Greider said fiscal concerns prompted the decision. Greider was quoted stating that the district had lost upwards of $110,000 through its cafeteria services between 2010 and 2012.
Casella said he still plans to protest the food company. "We want to get to the root of the problems so the food is better, not having mold, and not having hair," he said. "Our goal is that after about a week, they're going to say 'enough is enough, we're willing to work with you to make a change.'"