New Brunswick

Harbour View High student calls Chartwells return 'disheartening'

A Saint John High School's fight for greater food options has come to an end after students learned on Friday that Chartwells' contract was renewed.

'I always want to be able to fight for my school and for the voice of my fellow students'

Harbour View High students Kennedy McGeachy, left, and Jenna Dixon found out on Friday that Chartwells' contract had been renewed. (Sarah Trainor/CBC)

The student-led fight for healthier food options at Harbour View High School has come to an end after students learned on Friday that Chartwells' contract was renewed.

The school has been without a contracted meal provider for the past few months, since ending its contract with Chartwells in the spring. 

Students were trying to avoid the return of Chartwells to the school — one student, Kennedy McGeachy, wrote to Premier Brian Gallant stating "their food is the exact opposite of our school's standards."

In the absence of a regular provider, the students created their own "DIY cafeteria service" — offering a healthy meal for $5, which includes a salad, milk or water, and entrees that range from samosas, to curry and jasmine rice, to pulled pork sandwiches.

But as McGeachy and student council president Jenna Dixon found out last week, Chartwells is coming back for seconds.

Gathering signatures for a petition

Just over a week ago, McGeachy launched an online petition, calling on the province to keep healthy, local food options at the school.

The online petition received more than 1,500 e-signatures.

Dixon and McGeachy also wrangled up more than 375 handwritten student signatures late last week to hand directly to the legislature in Fredericton.

The two students were in the legislature on Friday, where they watched as both names and comments were brought to the attention of members. 

The two later met with the province's Education Minister Brian Kenny and were told that Chartwells' contract was renewed.

Education Minister Brian Kenny speaking to Harbour View High students Kennedy McGeachy and Jenna Dixon on Friday. (Submitted by Kennedy McGeachy)

"It was a really emotional meeting," said McGeachy. "To know that all their voices were just being discredited was really, really disheartening for us."

But Zoë Watson, the superintendent of the Anglophone South School District said the latest contract is different from the original.

The latest request for proposal stated the cafeteria must have a variety of grab and go items, such as sandwiches, fresh fruit, salads and hot items, Watson said.

It will also include a selection of drinks such as water, milk products and juice.

"It states that the majority of items must be in the moderate to maximum nutritional value as we must follow the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development Policy 711," she said in an emailed statement to CBC News. 

The student's 'DIY meals' feature vegetables grown in the school's garden. (Facebook)

"This policy covers all food served by us inside a school, including school activities and events."   

This time, she said the request for proposals specifically had a point stating the provider is to work with schools to allow school grown foods to be used — this would be the case with the school's garden.

It also states the provider is to work with schools to develop student entrepreneur types of project activities to highlight healthy foods.

Watson said Chartwells and the school district also plan to meet with McGeachy and Dixon in the near future.

"There are high schools in New Brunswick where the company has been very responsive to the needs, and initiatives of students," she said. "It will be very important for our schools and Chartwells to have regular contact and communication." 

'I'm a Viking and I always will be'

After discovering the news that Chartwells would be returning, McGeachy, the 17-year-old high school senior, started to cry.

"I just care so much about that school," said McGeachy.

"I'm a Viking and I always will be, so I always want to be able to fight for my school and for the voice of my fellow students."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cody MacKay

Multi-platform Journalist

Cody MacKay is a writer, editor and social media producer for CBC News on Prince Edward Island. From Summerside, he's a UPEI history and Carleton masters of journalism grad who joined CBC P.E.I. in 2017. You can reach him at cody.mackay@cbc.ca.

now