Food Service Request for Proposal

Message from School Committee Member Matthew Miller:

“Dear Newton Parents,

I am writing to provide an update regarding the Food Service Request for Proposal.

Sodexo is currently finishing up the 3rd year of three back-to-back 1-year contracts. NPS is required to put out an RFP (Request for Proposal). We approved adding two additional years to the contract for a total of 5 back-to-back years with the hope of making us more attractive to vendors.

The FRP group includes:

Dana Bennett (K-8 PEHW Coordinator)
Liam Hurley (NPS Finance)
Cindy Brown (Purchasing)
Eva Thompson (Interim Assistant Superintendent of Elem. Ed.)
Jon Ledwick (Consultant with Edvocate)
Stephen Marshall (Grants Manager, with Food Service experience)
Matthew Miller (SC Rep)

We have met twice as a group, the most recent meeting being held yesterday to review the proposals that have come in.

At the most recent meeting we reviewed the two proposals that have come in. Those include Whitsons and Sodexo. We had expected Chartwell and Aramark to also put forth a proposal. However, they did not. We think this is b/c after crunching numbers they realized they could not make it work. We are calling them to find out more. However, one theme of our discussion yesterday was that NPS is not that attractive to vendors. Some vendors are much better suited for bigger cities where more students (if not all) take advantage of school lunch. It is also helpful to note that we have basic criteria that a potential vendor needs to meet in order to be able to send in a proposal. Given the size of our district, we are limited in options.

Both Whitsons and Sodexo have put together proposals in the form of glossy, colorful binders full of info. While this info is proprietary, the info can be found online. I am in the process of going through the hundreds of pages and will be sharing my analysis. Happy to answer questions as well.

At the meeting yesterday, we established that both vendors meet the minimum criteria to set forth a proposal. The next step is to interview each vendor. These interviews will take place on March 28th from 9-1:30P. We are inviting a team of key stakeholders to watch observe yet not speak at the interview. I am sure many of you want to be a part of this team. To be fair, we are working with the administration and PTO council to get an appropriate cross section of our community including parents, students, High School, Middle School, Elementary School, teachers, custodians, principals and community members. We are currently reaching out to those individuals. That small group of 10 reps will be able to contribute interview questions and lend insight during a debrief. As such, I will be doing my best to collect your questions ahead of time so we can represent what is important to you. After the interview, we will be able to provide a summary.

The interview is one part of an evaluation process. We will be meeting after the interview to compare notes. At that time we will make a decision about which vendor we will move forward with.

One concern that was raised yesterday is how our community will react knowing that we are going to have to choose between Sodexo and Whitsons. Numerous complaints have come in about both companies, and participation rates have not increased. This is why we are, for the first time, involving the community in the process. Both companies have the ability to provide a higher level of quality. It is important for us to work together to decide which represents the best options and the best Food Service Director.

Finally, while there are many areas that we are focused on including conservation, allergies, communication, organic options, local options, etc., as a group we agreed that the number one priority is creating meals that are attractive, delicious and healthy. We are prepared to support whichever vendor we choose so that they can focus on improving food quality first and foremost.

Thank you,

Original message on the Newton Parents group.