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,