Chartwells, a food service company hired last year to provide lunch to students in the Beverly Hills Unified School District, is ending its five-year contract as of Nov. 16, according to information posted on the Board of Education website.
The termination could cost the district at least $380,000, according to information in the board’s Oct. 23 meeting agenda. It is not clear if those costs include a $75,000 credit the board granted to Chartwells earlier this year after the company said it was losing money providing lunch for the district.
As part of its July 2011 agreement with the district, Chartwells said it would cover most costs of the BHUSD lunch program. Chartwells was hired to replace the district’s own lunch program after an independent audit revealed that BHUSD lost hundreds of thousands of dollars from its lunch program in recent years.
Chartwells held an open house at Beverly Hills High School last October to introduce its new menu. Board member Lisa Korbatov, who was board president at that time, praised the company and its food.
“Going from good to great is not only about academics. It's also about taking pride in preparing and serving great food that our kids are excited to eat,” Korbatov had said when BHHS started serving Chartwells in its cafeteria.
With the Chartwells contract ending, “all costs, including labor, equipment repair and replacement, inspections, uniforms, food, and other associated expenses, will be borne by the district,” the agenda item states. “The total cost to the district will be approximately $500,000, which could be partially mitigated by food sales, estimated at $120,000.... This cost will impact the General Fund,” said the item, which was submitted by Chief Administrative Officer Dawnalyn Murakawa-Leopard.
She and her staff recommended that the board hire food service vendor Choicelunch to replace Chartwells, at least at the four K-8 schools.
“District staff has informally evaluated potential options to ensure no disruption to food services and believes Choicelunch is the best option ... there is no time to conduct a more formal request for proposal or other competitive solicitation,” the agenda item reads.
School lunch prices are set to rise if the board agrees to Murakawa-Leopard’s recommendation. K-8 lunch prices, currently $4.50 ($6 for kosher lunch), would rise to at least $5.80, according to the draft contract with Choicelunch. To read the contract, click here.
Board President Brian Goldberg declined to comment on the news, citing “possible pending litigation.” He advised residents to watch coverage of the Board of Education meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday for further information.
Check back with Patch later this week for coverage of the board meeting.