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Students going home hungry, refusing to eat cafeteria meals

Posted at 5:53 PM, Aug 19, 2021

PUEBLO — Many parents throughout Pueblo's District 60 are "disheartened" at their student's complaints about the food after returning to school.

"You should be able to be comfortable with where they're going to school and are they being fed properly," said Danielle Mastin, whose 7th grader attends Heaton Junior High School. At the beginning of the school year, Mastin's son wanted to eat the meals supplied in the cafeteria at school, but eventually changed his mind.

"He approached me in the kitchen and said, 'Can I pack my lunch today?' and I said, 'Well yeah, did you not like what you had yesterday?'... And he said 'No, I had the nachos and the chips were stale and it was gross, then I got two bites into my salad and lunch was over."

Heaton is a Title 1 school and several parents on Facebook claim that, due to the effects of the pandemic, they cannot afford to pack their child's lunch every day. School meals are all free for the time being due to COVID-19.

Another parent at Heaton sent a photo to News 5 that his child took at lunch, alarmed at what they were served.

Photo of lunch that a parent claims their student at Heaton Junior High School took

"There's room for error in a lot of things, but when it comes to taking care of children I don't believe there is room for error," said Mastin.

Southwest Foodservice Excellence (SFE) is the new meal provider that District 60 began using at the beginning of July 2021. Savannah Box, the General Manager in Pueblo, says the community has made her aware of their concerns.

"It hurts my heart, cause... We don't want anyone to have a bad experience right off the bat because it's hard to get those kids back if they have had a bad taste in their mouths," said Box.

When seeing the photos, Box says the meals are "not her expectation" and encourages parents to reach out to her directly with any concerns.

However, Box says the meals are lacking as a result of staff shortages at both SFE and their food distributors.

"I'm filling in in the kitchen where we are short staffed managers and also working with our distributors, working on all of these behind the scenes things to try and fix these issue that I know we're having," said Box.

SFE says students at Heaton can expect to start seeing "better" items on the menu as early as August 25.

Box also says they are offering higher wages than the district ever has before, in hopes of filling the abundance of position they have open.