“Watered-down ketchup.”

That’s how a rising 6th grader and member of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Committee described the taste of a school lunch staple, tomato soup.

Willow Stewart, who just wrapped up her 5th grade year at Willard Elementary, is a member of the district-wide panel of students who met periodically with (soon-to-be former) superintendent Devon Horton, to discuss a variety of issues in 2022-23.

Stewart, and two other members of the 15-student committee, addressed the Board of Education Monday night.

Three members of Superintendent’s Student Advisory Panel (along with administrator) address D65 school board on Monday.

While the other two students talked about something which has gripped much of Evanston for the past couple of years, the decision to move forward with construction of a school in the 5th Ward, Willow focused on something more mundane, but which kids face every day … school lunch.

Food service was one of the issues the student committee considered during the year.

While Willow said she and her fellow students like the macaroni and cheese, the tomato soup received bad reviews.

Student Advisory panel members Isaac Gershon (L) and Willow Stewart (R).

Plus, whether the food was liked or disliked, Willow said the kids were often still hungry after lunch.

School administrators, she said, told her that because the food is cooked off-site at Evanston Township High School, and then delivered, it would have been too much of a risk to send more food which might then spoil if no one eats it.

Willow also said the students wanted to see a return of Domino’s Pizza and also chocolate milk.

The pizza did come back, she noted, but chocolate milk was only served once.

“Our hope,” Willow said, “is that the chocolate milk returns consistently, and the tomato soup tastes better, so the kids will enjoy it.”

Board president Sergio Hernandez told Willow and the other two advisory panel members that their input is important.

“We can’t make the decisions” about food “without you.”

Hernandez said “I’ve had some of the food, and it’s been good,” although, he noted, “we can always do better.”

Superintendent Horton asked the three student advisory members if any of them wanted to be a teacher some day.

Willow raised her hand.

“I can tell,” Horton said in acknowledging her, “because you have vision and are willing to speak your mind.”

So don’t be surprised if, someday down the road, school teacher Willow Stewart demands better tomato soup in the teachers’ lunchroom.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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