PUEBLO — Parents of students in Pueblo School District 60 are raising concerns over the new meal program. Some say they've received rotten fruit and vegetables, spoiled milk, and opened meal packages. Parents say the meals that are given don't provide enough nutrition for their children.
The district started the meal program for online students three weeks ago. For families who are registered, they'll receive four meals that can be picked up on Fridays. While parents are grateful for the helping hand, they're not pleased with the quality.
"When I went to go pick up the food, it can in a big paper sack kind of mashed together. I was surprised it was packaged that way, but I took it home. I had some rotten fruit, milk that had expired or was going to expire within the next couple of days," said Stacy McCoy, Pueblo School District 60 parent.
McCoy just signed up for the meal program and says the food was so bad she had to throw some of it away. There were freezer-burned food, grilled cheese sandwich in an opened baggie, and wilted lettuce that was just thrown in there.
She has a son in high school and says the district needs to do something about the portion sizes.
"It wasn't enough for a preschooler or kindergartener, let alone a high school student," said McCoy. "If it's supposed to be for the following week, it's not going to last."
David Fuentes is another parent who's received rotten food in the meal packages. Besides the small portion sizes, he says there are not enough calories in the meals.
"It's horrible. They're not getting enough food, the food they get is under quality. It's supposed to be for the following week, but most of the food doesn't last. It's not ripe, it gets spoiled, and the milk is expired by Monday, said Fuentes.
He says the meals don't provide enough nutrition for the children.
"The apple crisps are 40 calories, then you get the tortilla and chicken. Everything is only adding up to 200 calories which they are suppose to get 400 calories just for lunch," said Fuentes. "You get a yogurt, granola, and milk and that's supposed to be 200 calories."
News 5 spoke with a spokesperson for the district about these concerns. The district says they haven't received any reports of rotten or opened meal packages.
"In our school district, we serve a variety of school options and some come pre-packaged from the manufacturer and the other we feel that it is important our students have fresh fruit. Anytime we have a fresh item, we need to remember that is a perishable item. If we're picking it up on Friday and it's set to last for the next few days then they might not be as fresh as they were when they picked them up," said Dalton Sprouse, Pueblo School District 60.
He says no parents have reported open meal packages to the district. In the case where someone did receive an open package, he says they should report it to the district immediately.
"We encourage them to let us know first so that we can take the issue to the manufacturer and make sure it's addressed as promptly as possible," said Sprouse. "All of our meals are meeting the USDA guidelines. It's something that we have to check on a daily basis in our nutrition program. We use two pieces of software, one is HealthyPro, where we are checking that and the other is Nutrislice. Both of those pieces work together."
For parents who've received fewer food items than others, Sprouse says they're still working on figuring out how much food is needed for the program.
"Not only are we feeding those who are picking up multiple days in to-go bags, but we are feeding our students every single day Monday through Thursday in the classroom. It's a big challenge trying to predict and anticipate how many meals we are going to prepare each week. That's where we are trying to figure out that balance. Obviously, we don't want to have so much food that we're wasting, but we don't want to be in a position where we are short that week," said Sprouse. "I would ask the community to be patient with us, we are doing the best we can."
The district encourages parents who have concerns with their meal packages to file a report so they can resolve the issue. They can email email@example.com or call 595-4282. Right now, they're meeting with staff to go over the recent concerns and are working on improving the meal program.
"We don't take this lightly. We want to take a look and see what improvements need to be made, how we adjust our ordering schedule to make sure we aren't in a situation where we might not have the value of food that we need. We are constantly looking at strategies where we can put into place so we can better serve our community. That's the whole reason we are here," said Sprouse.
For parents interested in the number of calories in the meal packages, they can visit Nutrislice for a full breakdown.