The Carson City School District will be changing its nutrition services vendor come July 1 after the Board of Trustees approved a new contract with Chartwells as its food service management consultant, ending a decade-long relationship with Aramark.
The school district’s request for proposal process for a new vendor began in January. The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires districts that establish an agreement with food service management companies can renew them for up to five years but must go out to bid again after that. Carson City has been with Aramark for 10 years. However, due to some “strange circumstances” with the coronavirus pandemic this year, the USDA allowed for a sixth-year waiver on its food service management agreement mandate for districts this year to ease the RFP process if needed, Feuling reported to the board during its regular meeting Tuesday night.
Carson City’s RFP process is entrusted to a committee comprised of trustees, school employees and parents for a recommendation. The group attended a series of presentations from Aramark and Chartwells to decide whether to stay with Aramark for one more year or to change its program. Members attended a walk at Bordewich Elementary School, Carson Middle School and Carson High School and ultimately decided on Chartwells, a company better known along the East Coast. The company serves 660 districts in the U.S. with four of those in Nevada.
Julie Veal, regional sales director for Chartwells, highlighted on Tuesday Chartwells’ emphasis on chefs who prioritize education, its focus on teaching students about healthy eating, opportunities for internships and externships and its development of a robust culinary arts program.
“We know (engagement) has been lacking,” Veal said. “We want to make sure … we have the best kind of partnership that lines with the district’s vision, and we’re looking forward to this new partnership.”
In its proposal, Chartwells committed to producing a deficit of no more than $280,138 for the next school year and to remove the shortfall altogether by its fourth year if the contract continues. The company also will provide a dining director, chef and two full-time employees on site, and it will promote growth at Carson High and incorporate breakfast in the classrooms of Bordewich, Fritsch and Seeliger elementary schools. This represents an increase of 200,000 meals over the 2018-19 year.
Board president Mike Walker said adding breakfast was a significant issue for students who are struggling in the classroom because they live without food in their home.
“If you want to see a real good example, try coming to school on a snow day,” he said.
While the trustees overall were pleased by the major changes Chartwells promised to bring to the table for Carson City schools, Aramark district manager Andres Montoya, calling in during public comment, asked the board to give the company one more year out of loyalty and to help avoid stressful changes on its employees. Montoya said Aramark was on pace to bring the district’s food services deficit down, reminding them of its original proposed financial guarantee of $220,000, while Chartwells provided a guarantee of $280,000.
“Changing vendors can be a stressful ordeal,” Montoya said. “Now you add the stress of doing this in the middle of everything. … Aramark is prepared to go one more year to help the district and then they’re free to go as they choose. We have fulfilled our promises.”
The board asked to see more data at a future meeting about the correlation between serving breakfast in the classroom and academic success.
“Kids learn better when they have a full belly,” Trustee Joe Cacioppo said.
Details of the specific contract with Chartwells will return to the board for consideration at a future meeting.
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