In three of the last four years, the William S. Hart Union High School District has experienced significant financial losses in their food program, according to district officials.
The district’s current food program with Chartwells experienced a loss of $187,880 during the 2016-17 school year and is forecast to lose value for the 2017-18 school year, according to this week’s meeting of the governing board agenda.
“This year, our best guess at this time based on my forecast, is a loss between $250 (thousand) and 300-thousand dollars in the program,” chief financial officer Ralph Peshcek said at Wednesday’s meeting.
As a result of the financial losses, staff recommended the board accept an agreement with Sodexo for the 2018-19 school year with an option for four annual renews. According to the contract, “the maximum dollar amount of this Contract is equal to the fixed price per meal $3.31 for lunch, $1.60 for breakfast and $3.31 for non-reimbursable meals ($3 Meal Equivalent).”
Sodexo’s financial plan projects a surplus revenue of $127,880 for the 2018-19 school year, according to the agenda.
“Currently, every dollar Chartwells spends, we have to pay them back,” Peshcek explained.
The current contract structure with Chartwells is a reimbursement of cost contract where the district assumes all liability and risk.
District officials believe Sodexo’s proposed fixed fee per meal structure will drastically help alleviate the district’s food cost, since the company’s fixed-price structure will cover all of the fees, including food, labor, supplies, fuel, training and other charges, that are associated with administering a school’s meal program.
“It’s a fixed price, so nothing fluctuates throughout the year and all the cost are included,” a Sodexo representative shared at the meeting. “If there’s a fluctuation throughout the year, the price isn’t going to change, so we take all the risk on this.”
“They brought a good package to the table. Both objectively and subjectively,” Peshcek shared at the meeting before two board members brought up his prior background in food service.
Assistant Clerk Linda Storli asked if Peshcek had any prior experience with the district’s newest food services manager, to which he replied, “In all transparency, I did work for that corporation,” adding that he recused himself from the selection process and hadn’t worked for the company in over a decade.
The board was unconcerned with the findings and moved to discuss the food products that would be available to students.
Cherise Moore, a board member who attended a Sodexo tour in Burbank, said the food tastes good.
“We focus very heavily on clean-labeled products, so we’re making smart choices for the students,” a Sodexo employee said. “They don’t know their hot dog has no nitrates in it. They just eat it.”
The company describes itself as a holistic program built around helping kids make healthier choices.
Sodexo, which has 13,000 sites across the United States and provides food to various universities and government institutions, agreed to provide 1,150,800 meals at the price of $3.025 per meal for a total cost to the district of $3,480,918. They said they will attempt to provide school lunches in the form of a food court with more choices and customization.
“It’s a lot of what we know the students like to eat,” a rep shared. “We just prepare it healthier and provide education around those things.”