A week before the school year ended, students at Edison Elementary held a protest after being cut off from bento boxes. For most of the year, Ume Grill’s Helen Nahoopii had been delivering the single-portion lunches packed in boxes to kids at Roosevelt Middle School and Edison Elementary after their parents ordered the boxes online. She says the district ordered her to stop because providing the food violates the district’s contract with food service giant Sodexo.
A 4J representative says that commercial vendors can’t deliver meals to school offices and expect staff to deliver the lunches to students, but parents can do so themselves.
“It wasn’t like I just showed up,” Nahoopii says. She thought she’d received permission from the director of nutrition to set up across the street from Roosevelt, where kids walked across to get their boxes, and after it got popular, their younger siblings at Edison started asking for the lunches. Nahoopii says she was delivering up to 130 lunches and donating 5 percent of the profits back to the schools. When she was ordered to stop, a 10-year-old Edison student initiated the protest.
“It’s industrialized food, and it’s processed chicken nuggets, pizza by the dozens,” Nahoopii says of the Sodexo lunches. Kerry Delf, a representative from 4J, says that’s not true. “We do offer healthy, fresh meals and foods in our schools,” she says. “Our school does sell a lot of local produce and organic options where we can do that cost-effectively.”
The bento boxes contained steamed non-GMO edamame, regionally sourced, naturally grown teriyaki-style steak, chicken or tofu, a brown and white rice mix made into an onigiri ball, stuffed with seasoned peas and wrapped with nori seaweed, fruit and a piece of mochi for dessert.
Kids can purchase the bento boxes this summer when Ume kiosks at Amazon Pool.