DCPS (New) Food Services Contract–Same as the Old One?

[Ed Note: The city just learned that DCPS wants to contract for food services for most of its schools with Sodexo. The contract is not yet publicly available for scrutiny. To ensure that the contract and its terms are throughly disinfected by public sunshine, the good folks at the DC School Food Project are asking for PTA/PTO signatories in the next day or two to a petition to the council for a public hearing on the contract. The petition is here (just sign and send to ivyleighken@gmail.com). Below is post about the history, why all this is so important, by Ivy Ken, a DCPS parent and member of the DC School Food Project.]

Right now, DCPS has chosen DC Central Kitchen (DCCK) to serve 12 schools in Ward 7 for the 2016-17 school year. DCCK is a terrific organization serving healthy, scratch-made meals.

The bad news, though, is that the other 100 DCPS schools will be served by the multinational company Sodexo, in partnership with Revolution Foods. Sodexo has a very troubling record around the US and in dozens of countries around the world: fraud, racial discrimination, other labor violations, and more. On top of that, they serve the same processed food products that former DCPS food vendor Chartwells has used in DC for eight years.

As you may recall, Chartwells-Thompson settled a $19.4 million whistleblower suit and was at the center of a $450,000 wrongful termination suit, in addition to costing the District over $39 million in unjustified charges over the course of its contract. Many in DC say: good riddance!

The contract DCPS now proposes with SodexoMAGIC (with a subcontract from Revolution Foods) has to be approved by the DC city council. Sodexo is a major multinational food service vendor with $22 billion in annual revenues. The company turned “MAGIC” when it partnered with famed basketball player and entrepreneur Magic Johnson, just a few years after it settled an $80 million racial discrimination lawsuit. Sodexo has a history of poor service and labor abuses.

Why would DCPS want to do business with a company like this?

We might ask Chancellor Kaya Henderson, who has met with Magic Johnson at least twice over the last nine months. The Associated Press revealed that the Chancellor also solicited money from Sodexo to support a yearly awards gala in 2013 and 2015.

Because these meetings and solicitations raise questions about the propriety of the current procurement process, our parent and community organization, the D.C. School Food Project, requested that the District of Columbia’s Board of Ethics and Government Accountability (BEGA) open a formal investigation into the process.

Representatives of the DC School Food Project are meeting today with a BEGA investigator and an attorney assigned to the case. In addition, the DC School Food Project, along with NAACP-DC and DC for Democracy, is requesting that the council’s committee on education hold a formal hearing on the procurement process (see petition above).

We want the council and public to review and assess the selection criteria that allowed SodexoMAGIC to receive the nod from DCPS over other qualified vendors. Once the council receives the formal contract recommendation from DCPS, it will have only 10 days to either schedule a hearing or approve the contract. The DC attorney general must also review the contract.

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