The Board of Education unanimously voted Tuesday to spend a maximum of $100,000 on a new school lunch program at the four K-8 schools following news that existing food vendor Chartwells had terminated its five-year contract with the school district.
As Patch reported Oct. 22, Chartwells notified the Beverly Hills Unified School District that it would stop providing lunches at all five city schools as of Nov. 16. Chartwells was hired in July 2011 as an outside lunch vendor after an independent audit revealed that BHUSD lost hundreds of thousands of dollars from its lunch program in recent years.
Board members voted at their Oct. 23 meeting to direct Chief Administrative Officer Dawnalyn Murakawa-Leopard to negotiate a contract with Choicelunch in which the total cost would not exceed $100,000 per school year. Choicelunch is a California company that serves 250 schools throughout the state and offers up to 16 entrée choices daily, according to its website.
In comments that were part of the board’s agenda, Murakawa-Leopard had estimated that hiring Choicelunch at all five schools could cost as much as $500,000 for the school year; the board directive to hire Choicelunch does not cover meals at Beverly Hills High School.
“We will continue to develop with branded food companies a solution for our high school,” board President Brian Goldberg told Patch in an email. “We have directed staff to look at providing a food service program that [limits] costs to the general fund to $100,000 per year, although our goal remains for this program to be cost neutral and not takeaway funds from the classroom.”
Chartwell’s decision to leave the district was a “…mutual decision [made] after multiple meetings and attempts to fix issues,” Goldberg said.
Food sales never met Chartwells’ expectations. Earlier this year, the company asked for and was granted a $75,000 credit from the district to help make up for financial losses it said it was incurring from the lunch program.
School lunch prices are set to rise under Choicelunch, according to a draft of the company’s contract with the district. Current K-8 lunch prices are $4.50 ($6 for kosher lunch), and they would rise to at least $5.80 under Choicelunch. To read the contract, click here.