WEST ORANGE, NJ – Although some members of the West Orange Board of Education (WOBOE) initially had reservations about Maschio’s Food Services, a recent presentation from the district’s new food vendor convinced the entire board that it would be a welcome change to the district.

Regional Support Specialist Geoffrey Bakelmun—who gave the presentation on behalf of Maschio’s—jokingly described the food service company as “the largest company in New Jersey no one’s ever heard of.”

Bringing 27 years of experience in the school food service industry while also serving 190 school districts in New Jersey, Maschio’s is a family-owned business that prides itself on using high quality products, according to Bakelmun. To that end, Bakelmun added that Maschio’s President Frank Maschio also runs a barbeque catering service and a food truck called “Hickory Sticks” as well as a trucking business to transport commodities “from the warehouses to the school districts.”

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According to Bakelmun, the food truck will be brought out to “the secondary schools on a promotional basis” in order to create “some excitement and break the monotony of the typical dining experience.”

Maschio’s will also provide a variety of programs to the West Orange district including “Chef Days,” where Maschio’s chefs will cook for students, and a “Frequent Diner Rewards Program,” which Bakelmun explained would allow all students to redeem a snack after collecting a certain amount of points at lunch.

Bakelmun started the program after noticing that some students in one district were unable to purchase a snack with their lunch. He mentioned that several districts were open, and in some cases ecstatic, about the idea because it “offers incentives to everybody else too, whether you have the ability to buy something at the snack stand or not.”

This program is also offered to faculty members, who will have a separate menu from students.

Another service that Maschio’s provides revolves around food-allergy awareness and training. Although Bakelmun said that Maschio’s food allergy plan is too “extensive” for him to discuss since he is not a registered dietician, he explained that Maschio’s does have eight registered dieticians on staff to “work independently with every parent who has a child with a serious food allergy.”

In addition to designing a customized menu for that child with his or her parent—depending on the severity of the child’s allergy—Bakelmun said that a dietician will “personally go to the school where that child is involved and train the staff on how to prepare the meal” in order to prevent cross-contamination.

“Everything from carbohydrate information to calorie counts on all food labels are available on [Maschio’s] website for the menus each day,” said Bakelmun, adding that parents will be able to speak with a Maschio’s receptionist, who will transfer their call to “a human being who will explain everything and answer all questions to the parents.”

Parents are also welcome to join a Parent-Student Advisory Committee run by Maschio’s at least two times per year.

Nicole Ruffo, a food allergy advocate and mother of three children with food allergies, was among those who supported Maschio’s, stating that managing a school district up to 500 allergy kids “is a big deal.”

“We haven’t had really a proper management of it in our school districts regarding the food services,” said Ruffo. “For me, as an allergy mom, if my child wanted to have something from the menu, I needed to call ahead and really ask about; and it’s frustrating, and it makes the children feel like they’re left out.”

She continued that she hoped that the menus, which are managed by Nutrislice, will be used to their “full potential” by listing “every allergen ingredient.”

Bakelmun responded that he would make sure the company adheres to her request and further noted that the menus will be updated on the website as well as the Nutrislice application two weeks in advance.

Maschio’s is also working on a sustainability plan that will switch schools from using Styrofoam trays to trays made from recyclable items like corrugated cardboard or a reusable plastic, he said.

When asked by board Vice President Sandra Mordecai whether Maschio’s would participate on the district’s reinstated Health and Wellness Committee, Bakelmun said he’d be happy to lend some volunteers and a dietician to attend. In response to another question, Bakelmun also said that he would work with the West Orange High School’s 18-21 program.

Business Administrator John Calavano clarified to parents and teachers that student lunch ID numbers and information under Meal Plus, the district’s online payment system for school lunch, will roll over because they are part of the district’s system, not Maschio’s food service management system.

In other news, the board congratulated Ana Marti on becoming the official Principal of Hazel Elementary School. Marti has held several positions throughout the district including supervising the World Language and ESL departments and taking on the role of assistant and acting principal in several buildings.

“We’re very lucky that you’re taking this position,” said board member Mark Robertson.

Dr. Cascone also congratulated Marti, stating that she was his “first administrative hire as a Superintendent” and expressing confidence that she will “serve the school community in an outstanding fashion.”

The board also took the time to congratulate Mt. Pleasant clerical aide Bernadette Romano and Kelly Elementary paraprofessional Susan Fink on their retirements. Respectively, they have spent 19 and 17.5 years in the district.

The next board of education meeting will be held on Aug. 26 at West Orange High School.