Letter to the editor: food service director clarifies food options

Westford Food Services Director Colleen Wallace responds to Ghostwriter opinion regarding inclusive lunch options

June 11, 2021

Prior to writing this article it would have been beneficial for Mr. Mukkala to have either participated in or observed the WA cafeteria under normal operations.  We are currently operating a cold Grab & Go Lunch model with very limited options in an effort to provide expeditious and safely distanced food pick up for the students at WA.  Salads, Sandwiches and Pizza are the only choices available to all students, not just vegetarian or vegan students.

Normally our daily options include a wide variety of meals, many of which are vegetarian.  All our garden salads contain either chickpeas and/or cheese as a protein component.  All are served with a pita bread pocket so that they can be made into a sandwich and all are served with dressing on the side so that food allergies or lifestyle choices can be accommodated.  Hummus or Tabouleh  Veggie Power Pack lunches and Seven Layer Mexican Dip lunches are frequently available.   In fact, the picture Mr. Mukkala chose to include with the article was of the Seven Layer Mexican Dip which is, in fact, vegetarian and which consists of  layers of refried beans, cheese, salsa, sour cream and assorted vegetables.  I think the picture stands for itself in highlighting the degree to which we go to feature exceptional vegetarian options.

When hot meals are available there is always a black bean burger to choose from in place of a beef burger.  The Mac and Cheese bar features a choice of plain, Buffalo Chicken or Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese.  Every Tuesday and Thursday, a pasta bar offers a choice of pasta with chicken, meatball and /or vegetables plus two sauces so once again, there are options for vegetarian and vegan students.  Pizza is available every day.  In our pre-made sandwich station, hummus and veggie wraps and veggie burger wraps are daily options as is the Caesar Salad wrap (with or without dressing).

Over the past three years, we have featured meals from Rangoli Grill in Westford several times in an effort to offer ethnic diversity in our lunch program.  Unfortunately, those meals were never embraced by the student population and therefore discontinued.

All cafeteria managers will work with students to accommodate specific requests if and when possible provided those requests are reasonable and comply with USDA guidelines for school meals.  Students with specific food allergies should submit a Physician’s Statement of Special Dietary Needs.  When we are in receipt of that form, reasonable food substitutes are provided.

The food service staff are members of the Westford Public Schools community.  To have one segment of the workforce maligned in such a way is quite disheartening.  The workers in the WA cafeteria are very upset to see that their hard work and dedication in extreme circumstances during this pandemic are not appreciated.  They were deemed essential workers and showed up every day under adverse conditions and without concern for their own well-being to provide meals to the children of Westford Public Schools.   I am disappointed that the faculty advisors to the Ghostwriter allowed their co-workers to be insulted in such a way and with information that did not accurately explain the full scope of the lunch program.

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    Pravar MukkalaJun 11, 2021 at 1:08 pm

    Hello, I’m the person who wrote the original article, and I’d like to respectfully disagree with this. First of all, this letter describes an experience I haven’t had, and won’t have anytime soon. Due to COVID, I have only experienced the cold lunch model, and my opinion was about that model because that was what I had experience with. The pasta bar, the veggie burgers, those all sound wonderful. However, that’s not something I’ve seen this year and I just don’t think that’s relevant here. Additionally, the fact that meals from Rangoli Grill were *once* featured is great, but again, I didn’t know that. Also, these meals are not served anymore, and I don’t see why this a valid point. I never stated that WPS wasn’t trying to be more accommodating; I said that *more* needs to be done.
    Lastly, I did not mean to “malign” anybody. My article was meant to be my opinion and a call to change, not a way to insult a “segment of the workforce”. Also, I used information that I experienced and information that was provided to me during my interview. I did not make up any information or omit anything of importance.