Contract approved: Board approves three-year food service agreement

April 2016 Posted in News, School

By Kristine Thomas

In a 4-3 vote on April 11, the Silver Falls School board approved renewing Sodexo America LLC’s contract to manage the district food service program, The agreement will run through June 30, 2019.

Board members Tim Roth, Wally Lierman, Aaron Koch and Ervin Stadeli voted tp approve the contract. Members Todd White, Ron Valoff and Tom Buchholz cast dissenting votes.

Silver Falls Superintendent Andy Bellando praised both the food services staff and Sodexo for their work.

Bellando said using the contract management services is making gains “toward meeting the school district board goals, is resulting in federal child nutrition compliance, has placed us in an ideal position to meet the re-authorization requirements anticipated in 2016 and has provided a host of additional supports that have been difficult for this district to manage on its own.”

“If this is working, why would we go back to the old system?” Bellando asked.

With Sodexo managing the program, it is estimated the deficit will be $20,000 to $25,000 this year compared to the $49,000 deficit in 2014-15. The district received a $10,000 grant that Sodexo applied for that helped reduce the deficit.

Suanne Earle, a Sodexo employee, is the food service director for the Silver Falls School District. She reported when the program was operated by the district from September 2014 to February 2015 – 109 service days – there were 128,231 lunch meals served, or a daily average participation of 1,176. From September 2015 to February 2016 – 104 service days – there were 124,827 lunch meals served, or 1,200 average daily participation.

“That is an increase of 24 meals per day, equaling a monthly average increase of approximately 480 meals,” Earle wrote.

In a letter to board members, Silver Falls Classified President Ron Duda shared that the increase may be due to all-day kindergarten starting this school year.

“Having that amount of an increase in students that could in theory participate in the lunch program would have given the food service program the largest base the district has seen in recent years or if not ever,” Duda said. “We realize that one of the board’s goals was to have an increase in student participation, but to compare last year and this year’s student participation numbers really doesn’t give true findings.”

The classified association requested any extension of the Sodexo contract be limited to one year so the numbers from this year can be compared to next.

Bellando said he and Assistant Superintendent Dandy Stevens met with the food services staff to hear concerns, including increased paperwork and no time for breaks.

“If people aren’t getting breaks and taking paperwork home, that needs to be addressed,” Lierman said.

On April 12, White said he voted against renewing Sodexo’s contract because he believes the responsibility belongs with Bellando and Stevens.

“If it’s in the red, they are the ones who should be faulted,” White said, adding he ate lunch at the high school and saw students eat pizza and throw away food. A few shared with him they thought the food was “lousy.”

“I think we could have done this in house,” White said. “There are a lot of people who are unhappy with the food.”

Koch acknowledged the district’s food service program is a work in progress. “Is everything perfect?” he asked. “No, but we have identified a laundry list to work on.”

Board chairman Tim Roth said it’s not a “slight against” the food services staff to keep Sodexo.

“It’s to keep up with all the requirements we need to meet,” he said.

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