IWCS to consider option for food services

Published 11:12 am Saturday, December 23, 2017

by Stephen Faleski

Isle of Wight County Schools is considering outsourcing its child nutrition department. The matter was discussed during the county school board’s meeting on Dec. 14 at the request of Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton.

According to Lynn Briggs, spokeswoman for IWCS, Thornton requested that the board obtain proposals from third-party cafeteria food service providers after informing them that the division’s in-house nutrition department was currently operating at a loss. During his presentation, he cited that only around 26 percent of Isle of Wight’s 3,500 students not eligible for free or reduced-price lunches choose to purchase food from the division’s school cafeterias.

The board approved his request to put out a request for proposals unanimously.

“Food services is supposed to be a self-funded program,” Briggs explained. “The money that is generated by food services goes directly back into supporting food services to pay for equipment, the food… so if its losing money, it’s coming from other accounts to make up that loss.”

Thornton briefed all division cafeteria workers and managers on his request and his reasons before bringing the matter to the school board. Briggs said that the board has been instructed to look for a company that will allow the division to retain its current food service personnel as employees of the school division, to protect most employees’ jobs. The only positions the division is looking to bring in from a third party are a chef, which the division does not have in-house, and a supervisor.

“The chef would help us to have more recipes where we’re making food from scratch and not rely so much on foods that are prepared frozen that we’re just reheating,” Briggs said, adding that she believed any outside company would be required by law to meet the same federal and state nutritional standards currently required of the division’s in-house department.

The division employs an in-house nutrition department supervisor, David Price, who holds the title of director of child nutrition. Briggs could not say with certainty what would happen to Price’s job if the division were to bring in a supervisor employed by a third-party vendor, but did not believe the division was likely to retain two supervisory positions, one in-house and one with whatever company is chosen.

Once the RFP is submitted and bids are made, each company that submitted a proposal will be reviewed by a panel, typically composed of various members of the division’s central administration and possibly some school board members.

The panel’s recommendation will be based on which proposals meet most or all of the division’s requirements and which proposals have the lowest bid. The school board will make a final decision based on the panel’s recommendation. She emphasized that nothing had been set in stone as of yet.

“This is just to look at proposals and start that process,” she said. “It has to be something that has to work for IWCS. It has to be beneficial for the schools and the students. It is not a done deal.”