Monthly Archives: July 2016

Upcoming Meeting: August 11 @ 6:30pm at Tyler Elementary

Dear DC School Food Project Supporters,

Quick Version:  Please RSVP to come to our next meeting on August 11 at 6:30pm at Tyler Elementary in SE.
The Details:
We’ve got some good news to celebrate for the upcoming school year:  DC Central Kitchen has been awarded the contract for schools in Ward 7!  DCCK is an amazing organization with terrific food and this is a real win for the city.
If you’ve been on social media you may have also learned that the company Sodexo has been awarded the contract for the remaining 101 DC public schools.  Although this isn’t a win for us, we were successful in our call for a Council hearing on the issue, and three DC City Councilmembers including Charles Allen, Mary Cheh, and Elissa Silverman voted against the contract.  In their dissenting votes they articulated the concerns we have highlighted, so our messages are getting through.
What now?
It’s important that we maintain our momentum and keep moving forward.  As you know, the mission of our organization is to ensure quality, improve access, and inspire demand for healthy, tasty school food in our nation’s capital.  There are some concrete steps we can take in the weeks and months coming up to make this happen.
The first is, let’s get together.  We’ve secured space at Tyler Elementary (1001 G St SE, just off the Eastern Market Metro station)on Thursday, August 11 at 6:30pm.  Please RSVP to let us know if you can come, and spread the word far and wide!  If you know of anybody — a parent, a teacher, a student, a health advocate, an anti-hunger warrior, a businessperson, or anybody else who might be interested, please invite them along.  And also please forward this to your school listservs and other networks.  It would be great to increase participation from all wards.
At the meeting we will set our agenda for moving forward.  A few things that members have already mentioned as priorities include:
  • locking down details with Council for oversight of Sodexo and DCPS with monthly hearings,
  • brainstorming new models for food services,
  • encouraging DCPS to re-establish a regular Friends and Family Advisory Committee,
  • agitating for a new Food Services Director,
  • working to establish a mentoring program for small food service companies in DC to be able to bid effectively on DCPS RFPs, and
  • making good on the Healthy Schools Act mandate to create a central distribution site and move food services in-house.

This is not an exhaustive list, but we can work on the details together on in August.  We also have a number of specific jobs and positions to divvy up, including some social media work, outreach in the schools, liaising with Council, bridging to DCPS, and more.

We hope to see you on the 11th!  There’s much to be done.
With best regards and many thanks for the support you’ve already shown,
Ivy Ken
Find us:
Twitter:  DC School Food Project @GreatSchoolFood

Appeal to Council: Include Another Vendor

Earlier today we sent the following e-mail to Councilmember Grosso, the Chair of the Committee on Education, and to all DC City Councilmembers.  It does not outline a perfect solution, but it does move us past a truly horrible contract with Sodexo.

The e-mail recommends amending the contract in a way that would allow DCPS to offer one cluster to an amazing upstart company called Genuine Foods.  The text of the e-mail appears below.

Dear Councilmember Grosso,

On behalf of The DC School Food Project, I’d like to thank you for the thorough, detailed hearing you conducted this week on the DCPS/SodexoMagic contract.  You and the other Councilmembers asked the hard questions, and we in the community appreciate it.
My reading of the situation is that we are in quite a bind.  Everybody acknowledges that this contract is problematic.  Yet Council–understandably–feels constrained about what it can do at this stage.
Our preference is that the contract be disapproved.
Yet if that’s not possible, I think there is a palatable solution that might get us all closer to where we want to be.  I noticed in the hearing that you indicated that you are open to allowing DCPS to make some modifications to the contract.  Some of the language in the contract wasn’t clear or correct, and you asked Dr. Beers for a list of items that would have to be included before the vote on Tuesday, July 12.
If you’re open to modifications from DCPS, then I think the most important modification to require would be to bring in one more vendor to serve one cluster.  It is my understanding that Genuine Foods remains on the list as a qualified bidder.  I do not know (and have long been asking!) who any of the other bidders are.  But I am aware that this vendor published their proposal and BAFOs online.  Mr. Grosso, it’s a really amazing proposal, in my opinion.
Everything Council said it wanted at the hearing, Genuine Foods has:  It has five community partners; it already has an agreement with the Teamsters to honor their labor requirements; it already has a written plan for student engagement.  They are transparent — publishing even their prices online.  And Mr. Grosso, their per-meal prices are significantly less than Sodexo’s, even though they include much more robust standards such as working with local food providers, prioritizing staff training, and increasing participation in schools with the most vulnerable students.
DCPS could award one high-need cluster to Genuine Foods, and see how they do.  Right now, if Council approves the Sodexo contract and Sodexo violates the terms of its agreement, there is no vendor in place to step in who has been tested and worked within the system, other than DCCK (which has no desire to scale up) and Revolution Foods (which has not performed well in the District or elsewhere — see their many Notices to Cure, from as recently as 2014).  Quite simply, we need more breadth.  We need a deeper bench.  We need at least one more contractor in the mix.
Everybody agrees that DC Central Kitchen is sort of the Gold Standard in the school food game.  My reading of the situation is that Genuine Foods’ approach is a lot closer to DCCK than Sodexo is, by far.
If there are other qualified bidders who could take a cluster, they should be considered too.  But this is the easy route.  And I think it would be met with widespread approval.
Please let us know your thoughts.  We would like to see this happen.
Many thanks again,
Ivy Ken

Keep the Heat On: July 12 is coming

It’s not too late to get involved in the fight for better school food in the District.  Our elected City Council representatives will vote whether to approve or disapprove the proposed contract between DCPS and SodexoMagic on July 12.  We’ve got to keep the pressure on them for a vote to DISAPPROVE.Gerald Johnson Ken

On Wednesday, July 6, 2016 the Committee on Education of the DC City Council held a public roundtable to discuss the contract.  Over 30 Lunch Ladies from the Teamsters Local 639 turned out along with students from elementary, middle, and high schools; DCPS parents and teachers; and a representative for the wonderful program, FoodPrints.  You can watch a recording of the hearing here.

We will post copies of each person’s testimony here as it becomes available.

In the meantime, PLEASE contact your ward representative and encourage them to vote to DISAPPROVE.  We don’t want to just hand over $35.4 million when there are such major problems with the contract.  Sodexo is charging way too much, and their track record indicates that the quality and taste of the food served to students will not improve.

We’re working to find a “third way” — some way we can avoid handing over millions of dollars to this company but not have to fall back on an emergency feeding plan.  But in the meantime, as we work out the details, please contact your Councilmembers and ask them to vote to DISAPPROVE!


Testimony of Ivy Ken