To: Marc Michaelson
Regional Superintendent Achievement First
403 James Street | New Haven, CT 06513 O: 203-773-3223 x17206| M: 203-668-4838
Re: Alternative for Student with Religious and Dietary Restrictions.
We have four children who attend Achievement First Amistad Academy (AFAA) Schools. We are an observant Muslim family, who eat only Halal Meat. This dietary restriction does not allow our children to eat many lunches provided by the school. As an alternative in previous years we had been given permission to send “factory sealed” protein alternatives to be stored in the school kitchen at Amistad Academy Middle School and used as a substitute protein for my children lunch.
In November of 2011 I purchased and sent factory sealed Kosher Hotdogs and Chicken Nuggets to the school to be served to my children. After being given this alternative for several days the children was informed by the cafeteria worker that he was told by his boss not to give them their alternative anymore.
I sent Mr. White, Principal of Amistad Academy Middle School an email letter to this fact, which she forwarded to Mr. Roundtree, Director of Operations. I informed Ms. Roundtree we were willing to supply the children with halal protein alternatives to be served with their lunches to substitute the school meat. In a phone conversation Ms. Roundtree informed me that the lunch supervisor did not want to be responsible for storing the food because the kosher hot dogs I sent was “expensive” and she could not guarantee t
hey would not be taken or used for other purposes, however they would be willing to heat up their lunches on a daily basis if I sent it with them. I explained to Ms. Roundtree that although we try to supply the children with lunch each morning, some days they forget their lunches and go the entire day without eating anything and come home at 5:30PM extremely hungry.
Ms. Roundtree restated via emails that they can bring their lunch daily then informed me that the school was
not legally responsible for giving children who did not have medical dietary restrictions a lunch alternative. Although I recognize that according to the “United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service Accommodating Children with Special Dietary Needs in the School Nutrition Programs: Guidance for School Food Service Staff” which Ms. Roundtree provided us via email AFAA does not have the legal obligation to make accommodations for children who do not have medical dietary restriction, the same documents states that the school can make substitutions at their discretion on a case by case basis on other dietary restrictions, for which has been made by previous administration for our children in the Middle school.
In effort to come to an agreeable solution to this issue my husband and I met with Mr. White and Ms. Roundtree on Wednesday December 7th to reiterate our concern about the children not being supplied a suitable alternative by the school nor we being allowed to supply an alternative protein source for our children. Ms. Roundtree stated that the company who supplies lunch to Achievement First did not allow outside foods and they supply a robust salad with tuna and chickpeas as a daily alternative even though they did not have to.
It is our position that giving children Tuna Salad everyday of the school year is not a suitable daily alternative when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that Women of childbearing years and young children not to eat tuna more than once a week. In addition when other children’s lunch consist of “oven fried chicken, peas and carrots, Whole wheat dinner roll, Butter, and fresh or children fruit” and non-meat eating students are given according to Ms. Roundtree and Ms. White, “A Salad, Roll and Fruit” we can not consider that a suitable daily alternative for children who are expected to preform with academic excellence in a demanding educational and behavioral environment of a 10 hours school day, neither is a daily alternative of salad nutritionally nor categorically equivalent to lunches provided to other student. The exact same alternative each day lacks any variety in micro or macro-nutrients for children nor any similitude of a balance diet, unlike the 8 different lunch options and varieties offered to other children throughout each month.
I informed Ms. White that I would be taking the issue further as it appears her hands were tied to do anything. Ms. White said to us that her hands were not tied but rather she was not “willing” to do anything different.
It is our position that when the administration of Amistad Academy Middle School is “unwilling” to either makes accommodations for us to neither supply the school with a protein alternative for our children nor give adequate alternatives speaks volumes to the environment that the school fosters. These actions are in direct opposition to creating an environment of multi-culturalism and acceptance. It show a lack for consideration for families that do not eat “traditional” meat, including observant Muslims, Jews, 7 day Advantest, and even vegetarians families in creating a healthy learning environment for its student.
Although this issue was bought to our attention by our middle school students, the same issue exist with our high school students who daily are given either a salad or eat nothing at all on days they do not bring their own lunch.
We are requesting that Achievement First as an organization ensures that students who do not eat meat are given at least five nutritionally equivalent lunch option by it’s food providers to ensure all it’s students are provided a healthy learning environment. And until such time allow families to supply the school with protein alternatives to be stored in the kitchen and served to their children.
We look forward to your response and resolution to this issue as soon as possible.