Chow lines by contract

Published 11:33 am Wednesday, December 27, 2017

School Board approves issuing RFP for school lunch providers

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

The Isle of Wight County school division is considering outsourcing its food services.

The School Board voted to give administration staff the go-ahead to begin developing a request-for-proposals at its meeting Thursday, after Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton said that the division’s in-house food service has been struggling to maintain a surplus.

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“We have lost money in the last four to five years in the food service,” Thornton said.

Outsourcing could cut down costs and increase the quality of school meals, according to Thornton. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The school’s cafeteria services currently serve about 26 percent of students who are not eligible for free or reduced meals, according to Thornton.

“That’s very low, and so that’s a concern,” he said of the percentage.

About 70-75 percent of students who are eligible for free or reduced meals utilize the division’s cafeteria services, he added.

Thornton said that in the event the division opts to outsource its food, cafeteria workers would remain employees of Isle of Wight County public schools. The outsourced company would likely have a supervisor and a chef working in the division, according to Thornton.

One of the benefits to utilizing a larger food provider would be expanded resources, and more food would be made from scratch rather than frozen and prepackaged, according to Thornton.

“It’s going to be a better quality of food,” he said of outsourcing.

Thornton said he met with the division’s cafeteria staff last week and that their reaction to possible outsourcing was “very positive.”

“It is not a reflection on any of the employees,” Thornton said of outsourcing. “They do an outstanding job.”

Newport District School Board member Vicky Hulick said that she has often championed offering healthier, better quality food alternatives for students, and feels optimistic that outsourcing to a larger company could bring about improvement.

The outsourcing would likely eliminate Director of Child Nutrition David Price’s position within the division, according to division spokesperson Lynn Briggs.  {/mprestriction}