Lowell School System finds Food Service improving -Aramark doing a good job.

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Quality of Meals Report

Aramark Report 5 year

In this week’s School Committee packet, there is a report on the Food Service. In general it is positive and I do believe Aramark is doing a good job. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely ! but on the whole things seem to be improving.

I’ve attached PDFs of the reports and will also make copies to distribute at the next Citywide Parent Council meeting.

At the elementary grade level, the results of the survey indicate that 90% of the students said that the quality of the food was “Just OK” to “Really Good”. At the middle school level, 78% of the students said the quality of the food is “JustOK”to“ReallyGood”. At the High School level, 88% of the students think that the quality of the food is “Just OK” to “Really Good”.

A couple of other observations and questions:

It seems as though they have pointed back to ’09 when it was a self operating unit. That is quite awhile back so if they are using this as a point of reference where are the accompanying enrollment numbers to compare growth in revenues and participation ?

Enrollments move up and down and the growth/reduction in participation should be reflecting that.

* breakfast seems to be up 300 from last year
* lunch seems to be up 400 from last year

* 10 minute wait times. There could be a couple of reasons here. 1) supervision, 2) not enough POS stations. 3) not enough workers.

I would hope this is not done to enhance bottom line. I would have expected a larger growth in these breakfast and lunch numbers as Lowell joined the CEP and all meals are now free.

Some schools lack an alternate choice to the main lunch offering. No excuse for this. This should be an easy fix. Again, Hopefully this is not being done to improve profits.

I’ve asked the District for a copy of the Aramark contract and has soon as I drop off the $5.00 they are charging me for a copy I’ll review it and share what I find. Does the contract have charge backs to Aramark? Since the city charges the School dept. for trash pick up and a large percent of the trash would come from the cafeterias, can Lowell recoup some of that money?

The cafeteria revolving fund had a positive balance of $2.0 million as of June 30, 2015. Is the money going to be used to buy some warmers or refrigerators for some of the satellite schools?

Lastly, what is not referenced is the issue of “entitlement” dollars. Entitlement dollars are based upon participation numbers. In a district the size of Lowell this should be a substantial amount of money.

The choices to use these dollars are in the categories of oil, cheese, beef, chicken, pork, eggs etc. some districts use these dollars with direct shipped commodities from the DOE warehouses, others, do a blend of direct shipped products and diversion, the question we need to be asking is, how much do we get and how is it spent? These choices need to be made in March and April of this calendar year for next.

IF the city considers changing vendors for the next school year by putting the contract out for bid, I recommend the Business Manager be involved in this process as the State changed the way districts receive them last year. The reason I say this is that they could find themselves in a position where Aramark is making choices for a subsequent vendors or the district if they return to self operations.

The new Lowell School committee will need to make the Food Service Contract a Priority in order to not risk missing out on these funds or giving Aramark the chance to direct where these funds are used if they are back or deciding how they are used for another vendor.

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