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Back Local News GDOE urged to study cultural factors in school lunch program

GDOE urged to study cultural factors in school lunch program

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SEN. Aline Yamashita is stressing the need for cultural considerations in the selection of the menu lineup for students under the Guam Department of Education public school system and for ensuring that local produce are consistently incorporated into the menu items.

The senator raised these concerns during yesterday’s “Table Talk” meeting during which she also said her office is eyeing an evaluation of the entire GDOE school lunch program to ensure these concerns are adequately addressed.

Aside from the cultural aspect, the evaluation will also look at the prior and current expenditures as well as savings, if any, of the present school lunch program.

“Cultural competency in food is really important. What our kids are really familiar with is a starting point. You cannot expect them to all of a sudden eat different foods and be nourished,” Yamashita said.

Menu items that are more local, utilizing produce sourced out from the island, should be considered for the school lunch program, the senator added.

“We know that there is already a contract in place with Sodexo for most of our schools. But if there is language where we can say for instance, that as much as possible, you need to work with our local farmers, then we want to see if they can do that now,” she said.

Yamashita said she would like to see at least 50 percent of the produce to be locally sourced.

“We need to start being serious about buying local, about supporting, so that the whole economic aspect can really be viable. We need to do that,” she emphasized.

Yamashita said some of the concerns about the School Lunch Program, including the planned evaluation, will be officially raised in an oversight meeting for GDOE.

In August 2012, GDOE, the Department of Defense’s DLA Troop Support Guam Area Office, and Quality Distributors, DLA’s prime vendor for food procurement, agreed to source out fruits and vegetables from the Farmer’s Cooperative Association of Guam and International Distributors Inc. for some of the island’s 40 public school cafeterias.

The procurement of produce from local sources is in compliance with Title 5 GCA, Chapter 68, or Public Law 23-18.

According to the provision stipulated in the law, “The Department of Agriculture shall, on a continuing basis, make every effort to ensure that the crops of the farmers and the fish products of the fishermen of Guam are first procured by agencies of the government ... unless the farmer or fisherman has made previous arrangements for sale to other users.”

During the past few months, Yamashita said she has been actively involved in building partnerships and facilitating conversations with each of the agencies.

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