Today, July 12, the city council will vote on the new contract for food services for DCPS.
This is a fascinating exercise, given that the contract was months late, with hardly any time for review, and that food will be served to students starting on August 8 (yeah–even earlier than I thought before).
The council hearing last week, on July 6 after an emergency extension for review of the contract, made clear that the information in the contract, its summary, and the request for proposals were quite different documents; that issues of waste, freshness, quality, selection (not enough dietary choices), and lack of drink options were not clearly pursued and outlined, much less solved; and that no or very few (not clear) students were involved in taste tests.
Oh, not to mention that the main contractor proposed for most DCPS schools, Sodexo, had at least 40 different violations and settlements for poor performance in the past (including serving horse meat); there is no way to ensure a penalty for poor performance at DCPS in this contract; that rebates for food prices are guaranteed for the contractor, allowing the company to save money by buying the cheapest possible food and pocketing the savings (something that got the prior vendor, Chartwells, into trouble in New York state—now, that pocketing of savings in DC is built into the proposed contract); and that it is not likely that another contractor will be chosen next year, thus ensuring that once this contract is approved, Sodexo will continue for years forward barring some gross(er?) violations.
Oh, and let’s not forget to mention that a secret panel at DCPS comprised of four (unknown) people approved this vendor.
What can possibly go wrong?
NB: If the council votes to NOT approve the contract today, food will still be served: DCPS can enact an emergency contract for food services.
Given that the four horsemen of our DC public education apocalypse (Allen, Cheh, Grosso, and Silverman) were the only ones at that hearing last week, maybe DCPS has this one in the bag.
(Confidential to no-show Jack Evans, running for re-election: You say you’re concerned about council “meddling” in city contracts, so can we conclude that this contract, at $35 million annually, is not merely a relative drop in (your) bucket, but that tens of thousands of DC kids who have NO other source of food for their entire day don’t deserve better oversight? Even food advocates have a work-around if it’s approved.)
Well, if you are moved this morning by the thought of our kids eating food provided by a company without a stellar track record or sunshine in its contract with our city, feel free to call the council and let them know that maybe, just maybe, there needs to be a bit more sunshine for the sake of kids who must endure what we adults do on their behalf:
Brianne Nadeau, Ward 1, 202-724-8181
Jack Evans, Ward 2: 202-724-8058 (running for re-election)
Mary Cheh, Ward 3: 202-724-8062
Brandon Todd, Ward 4: 202-724-8052 (running for re-election)
Kenyan McDuffie, Ward 5: 202-724-8028
Charles Allen, Ward 6: 202-724-8072
Yvette Alexander, Ward 7: 202-724-8068 (defeated in primary; has nothing to lose by voting to disapprove the contract)
LaRuby May, Ward 8: 202-724-8045 (defeated in primary; has nothing to lose by voting to disapprove the contract)
David Grosso, at large: 202-724-8105 (running for re-election)
Elissa Silverman, at large: 202-724-7772
Anita Bonds, at large: 202-724-8064
Vincent Orange, at large: 202-724-8174 (defeated in primary; has nothing to lose by voting to disapprove the contract)
Chairperson Phil Mendelson: 202-724-8032