Key Power Players 

The team compiled a list of power players in the educational sector and assessed their capabilities of helping Grow Hartford in the future through power-mapping. There are certain power players who have been highlighted as the most integral to Grow Hartford’s success. 

Our findings in our power map highlighted four individuals – three of them are likely to support Grow Hartford’s work, and one of them is a likely target for potential political pressure. 

Yolanda “Lonnie” Burt is the Senior Director of Food Services in HPS. She is essential by being a top decision maker for HPS school foods, and she is a dietitian (Burt, “Lonnie Burt”). Therefore, she can offer her expertise to Grow Hartford regarding strategies that HPS have used to sustain healthy nutrition; and she and Grow Hartford could discuss the challenges within providing healthy foods, how HPS and Grow Hartford can assist children from food-insecure neighborhoods, and how HPS and Grow Hartford can form a partnership to further improve nutrition in schools. 

Karen Taylor is another key power player. She is a Trinity alumna, and she works as the Director of Equity and Opportunity for the City of Hartford; this role connects her to Hartford’s policy leadership team (Taylor, “Karen Taylor”). Ms. Taylor is an asset because she invested in HPS’ productivity when she served as a board member, and would likely value Grow Hartford’s stance of improving school nutrition. Additionally, she’s connected to policy makers, which positions her as an advocate for systemic changes like increasing supermarket presence in food-oppressed neighborhoods, and the reduction of fast-food restaurants there. Plus, Ms. Taylor and Grow Hartford’s Program Director Shanelle Morris are both Trinity College alumni, so there is common ground to build upon (Taylor, “Karen Taylor”). 

Charlene Russell-Tucker is the Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Education and serves on the CT Board of Education. Ms. Russell-Tucker currently has a leading role in CT education, she was president of the CT Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and serves within the National Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (“State Board”). Thus, Ms. Russell-Tucker’s background can help Grow Hartford understand school nutrition more thoroughly, discuss challenges that have impacted nutrition in CT, and as a well-known player, can give Grow Hartford publicity so that other organizations and people can get involved with their school nutrition objectives. 

Bonnie E. Burr is a board member of the CT Board of Education. Ms. Burr has extensive experience in the dairy industry and currently serves as Assistant Director and Department Head of the Cooperation Extension Program at UCONN (Burr, “Bonnie Burr”; “State Board”). Ms. Burr is a unique asset to Grow Hartford; despite her investment in the dairy industry, Grow Hartford can discuss issues related to dairy, such as people of color largely being lactose intolerant and hormones in dairy milk (Freeman, 2013). It’s doubtful she’d stop supporting the dairy industry; however, she could appreciate why milk consumption is problematic for some people. Plus, Ms. Burr can discuss how much the dairy industry earns from supplying milk to schools in comparison to supplying to other consumers. 

Additionally, our team conducted document analyses regarding different data pertinent to Hartford Public Schools’ school nutrition. This involved differentiating between local and companies that supply Hartford Public Schools with food and reviewing the nutritional and reviewing nutritional information to analyze the extent to which this information fulfilled the set criteria within Grow Hartford’s “GHYP School Food Rubric” (Morris). This analysis required an overview of the rubric, and direct application of it to Hartford Public Schools. That is shown here:


Nutritional Data

Regarding the nutritional information emailed from Ms. Burt, we have a list of HPS’ food suppliers (Burt):

  • Thurston Foods – supplier of meats, grocery, produce, cleaning supplies
  • Tyson Foods – a multinational food corporation (supplies HPS chicken)
  • Kellogg’s – a multinational food producer (supplies HPS meat alternative)
  • Wade’s Dairy – a dairy farm
  • Scotts’ Jamaican Bakery – New England food supplier (supplies HPS beef patties)
  • Maid-Rite – an American dining franchise restaurant chain (supplies HPS beef)
  • Nardone Brothers Baking co – a national pizza supplier
  • Keney Park Sustainability Project  – nonprofit focused on sustainability 
  • HPC Food Service – a general food supplier
  • Keney Park Sustainability Project – a nonprofit focused on sustainability 
  • Freshpoint – a national produce wholesaler
  • Knox Inc. – a nonprofit supporting needs of Hartford residents and sustainability

Nutrition Content of HPS Food 

Table Displaying Nutritional Content for Foods Offered in Hartford Public Schools 
Food Item  Amount of Protein (% in daily value)  Amount of Vitamins (% in daily value)  Amount of Minerals (% in daily value)  Amount of Dietary Fiber (% in daily value) 
Tyson chicken filet  38%  0%  Iron-6% 


Tyson oven roasted leg  32%  0%  Calcium- 0% 

Iron- 4% 

Potassium- 4% 

Tyson chicken tenderloins  40%  0%  Iron-4% 


Kellogg’s Morningstar Farms® Chik’n Nuggets  20%  0%  Calcium-2%  

Iron- 8% Potassium- 4% 

Maid Rite Fully Cooked, Gluten Free, Soy Free Beef Meatballs  N/A in percentage  Vitamin C- 2% 


Calcium 2% 

Iron- 8% 

Scotts’ Jamaican Bakery Jamaican Beef Patties  0%  Vitamin A- 6% 

Vitamin C- 2% 

Calcium- 4% 

Iron- 25% 

Nardone 6-Inch Round Whole Wheat Cheese Pizza.  N/A in percentage  Vitamin A-10% 

Vitamin C- 2% 

Calcium- 45% 

Iron- 10% 


(“Tyson drumsticks”; “Tyson Tenderloins”; “Tyson Filets”; ”Morningstar Farms ®; “6-Inch Whole Wheat”; “Maidrite Fully Cooked”; “Scotts Jamaican Bakery.”)


Grow Hartford Rubric Overview 

This semester, the school nutrition team worked with our community partner Grow Hartford to work toward ensuring that school nutrition in Hartford Public Schools is as healthy as possible. One of the school nutrition’s teams objectives was to determine what foods are served in Hartford Public Schools, what nutritional standards schools are mandated to abide by, and to evaluate these things against Grow Hartford’s rubric. 

Grow Hartford’s rubric is designed to evaluate the quality of school food nutrition at Hartford Public Schools. The assessment criteria are divided into three categories: healthy and nutritious school food, ethical school food, and youth-centered school food (GHYP Rubric). Each section is divided into three sub-sections, labelled “Excellent, work-in-progress, and poor”. Though the sub-sections have the same names, they set forth different requirements based on their main categories.  

Healthy and nutritious foods is the first category. These should satisfy students’ hunger, and be especially nutritious and conducive to their continued growth and development (GHYP Rubric). Excellent is defined as having largely fulfilled the following standards, work-in-progress is defined as having made moderate progress towards them, and poor is when the efforts made so far are largely substandard:

  1. Food provided is void of carcinogens, GMOs, high fructose corn syrup, synthetic dyes, and artificial ingredients. 
  2. Natural foods that have essential nutrients such as protein, fiber, antioxidants, omega three fatty acids, vitamins, minerals. 3
  3. Dairy free milk options are available to students. 
  4. Well-prepared and filling vegetarian and vegan menu items. 
  5. Food is naturally prepared instead of being ready-made. 
  6. Most food is cultivated seasonally.  

For youth-centered school foods, the second category,  HPS school meals should adequately incorporate aspects which are reflective of the diverse perspectives that encompass Hartford Public schools, including personal, cultural, religious, and allergy conscious perspectives (GHYP Rubric). Excellence is dependent upon having greatly achieved the following requirements, work-in-progress is meeting them on an average basis, and work-in-progress means most or none of these standards have been met:

  1. Food is representative of the school’s diversity. 
  2. Students are offered vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, kosher, and halal meals. 
  3. Students contribute to which menu items are featured. 
  4. Ingredients are ones that students can access without difficulty. 
  5. Adequate portion sizes are provided. 
  6. Schools usually seek feedback and apply any that is given 

The third category, ethical school meals, is crucial because the intent is to ensure that the factors within the HPS school foods sector are conducted in ways that respect and protect the interests of all parties associated with school nutrition (GHYP Rubric). Excellence is based on majorly satisfying the following criteria, work-in-progress correlates to a passable attempt at satisfying them, and poor means that there have not been any significant attempts towards satisfying them:

  1. The meat was free-range, fed natural foods, and is void of antibiotics. 
  2. Food is provided from restaurants and vendors within Connecticut. 
  3. Cafeteria workers, farmers, and factory workers have living wages. 
  4. Cafeteria workers, farmers, and factory workers are paid a living wage. 
  5. There is no school lunch debt. 


 Grow Hartford’s Rubric Application in Hartford Public Schools 

After compiling and reviewing information that is relevant to Grow Hartford’s rubric, the School Nutrition team conducted an analysis of how extensively the relevant criteria under healthy and nutritious school foods, youth-centered school foods, and ethical school foods has been met by Hartford Public Schools. The table above displays nutritional facts pertinent to the rubric application. However, team school nutrition did not request nor receive data regarding sauces and additions to the primary ingredients. 

Healthy and Nutritious Foods 

The criteria for healthy and nutritious foods have been addressed in various ways. For example, the Tyson food brand supplies at least three products to Hartford public schools: chicken oven-roasted leg, chicken filet, and chicken tenderloins. It has been found that these products contain no carcinogens, artificial ingredients, nor synthetic dyes. Additionally, Tyson products provide nutrients such as protein, iron, potassium, and dietary fiber.  

Kellogg’s Morningstar Farm Veggie Chik’n’ Nuggets is one of the school’s plant-based options. This item contains nutrients such as protein, calcium, iron, potassium, and dietary fiber (“Morningstar Farms ®”; Burt). This item also contains no carcinogens, nor synthetic dyes. However, it does contain the artificial ingredient sodium acid pyrophosphate, which is commonly used as a “leavening agent found in baking powders” and genetically modified organisms, commonly known as GMOs (“Morningstar Farms ®”; “Disodium Pyrophosphate”). Additionally, to prepare these products to be eaten, they just need to be baked or microwaved, which implies that they are ready-made (“Morningstar Farms®”). 

Nardone Whole Cheese Pizza is another Hartford Public Schools food source, and it possesses a variety of nutrients such as protein, fiber, vitamins A, D,E, and K, and minerals such as iodine, calcium, magnesium, and selenium. This product possesses no synthetic dyes, carcinogens, nor artificial ingredients (“6” Whole Wheat”; Burt). 

Scotts’ Jamaican Bakery supplies Jamaican Style Beef Patties to Hartford Public Schools. These products comprise nutrients such as dietary fiber, vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium; they contain no artificial ingredients, carcinogens, nor synthetic dyes. The fast preparation of baking these foods for some minutes suggests that these products are ready-made. These products can either come with meat or meat alternatives. (“Scotts’ Jamaican Bakery”; Burt) 

Maidrite Gluten and Soy Free Beef Meatballs is another source of nutrition. It provides the nutrients protein, calcium, iron, and vitamin C (“Maidrite Fully Cooked”; Burt). This product contains no artificial additives, carcinogens, nor synthetic dyes Furthermore (“Maidrite Fully Cooked”; Burt),  alternatives for lactose intolerant students are offered on a case-by-case basis depending on the medical nutritional therapy needs for each student (Burt). 

Unfortunately, the school nutrition team does not have adequate information to answer the criterion whether foods are grown seasonally. However, Hartford Public Schools conveyed that they source their fruits and vegetables locally. According to Ms. Burt and Ms. Ibarrola, produce is sourced from Keeney Park Sustainability Project and Knox Farms (Burt; Ibarrola). 

Regarding the criteria that have been evaluated for healthy and nutritious school food, Hartford Public Schools is a work-in-progress. The strengths are that the foods assessed all have substantial nutritional value, most foods are free of carcinogens, synthetic dyes, and artificial additives, and arrangements are made for those managing food allergies and intolerances. One of the products, the Kellogg’s Morningstar vegetarian nuggets has the artificial additive sodium acid pyrophosphate as well as genetically modified organisms. Additionally, many of these products only require oven-baking to be ready for consumption, which alludes to them being ready-made instead of cooked from scratch. Therefore, Hartford Public Schools does have room for improvement. 


Youth-Centered School Foods 

The rubric for this segment has been applied several ways. In terms of representing diverse backgrounds, HPS supplies dishes such as Jamaican beef patties and turkey tacos and tortilla chips (Hartford Schools, “April”). Of course, these options can be enjoyed by anyone, but it shows that HPS strives to include different cultural staples by incorporating foods from Caribbean and Latino cultures, respectively. 

Additionally, HPS incorporate vegetarian options with Kellogg’s Morningstar Farms Veggie Chik’n  Nuggets, which are made with soy protein, and hummus, cheese sticks, broccoli florets, vegetarian baked beans, curried cabbage, zucchini, and squash (“Morningstar Farms”; Hartford Schools, “May”). They have provided gluten-free options by including Maidrite Gluten Free Soy Free Beef Meatballs (“Maidrite Fully Cooked”). Food options which cater to specific diets such as halal, kosher, gluten-free, veganism, vegetarianism, and lactose intolerance are decided on a case-by-case basis in relation to each student’s medical nutrition therapy needs (Burt). HPS follows the guidelines and requirements of the National School Lunch Program (Burt). Hartford’s effort to maintain the national standards within their school system conveys that their portion sizes are adequate (Burt). 

Students do contribute feedback regarding food options at HPS regularly. HPS runs blind taste tests (the brands are not disclosed during testing) within their student population, and students evaluate what’s most appealing to them in texture, taste, and appearance (Ibarrola). The brands and food items that are most appealing according to the taste tests include Tyson chicken tenders and chicken legs, hamburgers, hotdogs on whole grain rolls, crops from Keney Park Sustainability Project and Knox Inc., and Scotts’ Jamaican Beef patties (Ibarrola). Lastly, students in HPS have easy access to identifying ingredients in foods, including any allergens and carbohydrates in them (Ibarrola). 

Based on the criteria that could be assessed for youth-centered school food, Grow Hartford is a work in progress. Their advantages are that they have integrated foods that are indigenous to diverse cultural backgrounds like Caribbean and Latino (Hartford Schools “April”). Additionally, Hartford Public Schools do offer options that cater to specific diets based on students’ individual medical needs, but it’s unclear how accessible alternative diets are to students whose dietary needs are based on cultural, religious, or personal preferences (Burt). Also, HPS uses the NSLP’s standard portion sizes and regularly seeks student feedback (Ibarrola). 


Ethical School Foods  

The information for this category was evaluated in different ways. HPS partners with Tyson, Kellogg’s Morningstar Farms, Nardone, and Maidrite, all of whom are non local companies (Burt). Local fruits and vegetables are sourced from businesses such as Keney Park Sustainability Project and Knox Inc (Burt; Ibarrola). Scotts’ Jamaican Bakery is another local business that provides meal components, and according to HPS’ menu, milk is provided from a Connecticut dairy farm (Burt; Hartford Schools, “April”). Additionally, HPS provides free meals to all students, Tyson chicken has no antibiotics, and meat is raised freely and fed with natural ingredients (“Tyson drumsticks”; “Tyson Tenderloins”; “Tyson Filets”; Ibarrola). Unfortunately, we could not evaluate whether cafeteria and factory workers are paid above minimum wage. 

Based on the criteria that could be assessed for ethical school foods, Hartford Public Schools is a work in progress. Strong points include that Tyson chicken has no antibiotics, meats are raised freely and fed natural foods, fruits, vegetables, dairy, Jamaican patties all come from local businesses, and there is no school lunch debt (“Tyson drumsticks”; “Tyson Tenderloins”; “Tyson Filets”; Burt; Ibarrola). However, many of HPS’s food suppliers are not local businesses and that should definitely change because completely sourcing from Connecticut businesses would generate more revenue for CT, and that money could be used to improve communities, businesses, and individual lives. 

Summary of Findings

Our team’s commitment to Grow Hartford and school nutrition compelled us to expand our level of knowledge. We realized that being vested in school nutrition was about children having healthy foods, but we learned how to develop that goal in different ways. These ways included familiarizing ourselves with power players in the education and school foods sectors, the businesses that provide HPS with foods, and evaluating how effective decisions concerning school foods are thus far. Ultimately, reviewing these findings should provide Grow Hartford with a thorough understanding of factors that impact Hartford Public School’s school nutrition.



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