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Food service retained on 4-2 school board vote

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

School lunch participation rates in McCook.
(McCook Public Schools)
McCOOK, Nebraska -- After much discussion, the McCook School Board of Education voted to keep the current food service company, Sodexo, by 4 to 2.

Negotiations with Sodexo for a one-year contract, renewable for up to five years, will now be worked out.

Shane Messersmith, one of two board members who voted against it, asserted after the vote Monday night at the regular board meeting that he didn't think the selection was handled correctly and that there was favoritism within the food selection committee.

"I hope we do better next time," he said.

Members of the food selection committee that recommended to the board to retain Sodexo include board members Messersmith, Sandy Krysl, Teresa Thomas, Superintendent Grant Norgaard, Business Manager Rick Haney, MHS Assistant Principal Jeff Gross, MHS Principal Jerry Smith and Kate Repass, recently hired as principal at Central Elementary.

Norgaard said Monday night that members of the committee were asked to e-mail him their selection of the food company they preferred. He said today that the committee chose Sodexo by 7 to 1.

Messersmith joined board member Diane Lyons in voting against Sodexo, the company the district has used for the past 15 years. Voting in favor of retaining the current company were Tom Bredvick, Larry Shields, Krysl and Thomas.

Board members who voted to retain Sodexo cited concerns about cost increases, specifically $43,000 and a 25-cent meal price increase, that was included in the Request for Proposals from LunchTime Solutions, the other company in the running as a food service providers.

At Monday night's meeting, board members were unclear what the $43,000 was to be used for and whether it was a one-time cost or yearly.

Board President Tom Bredvick said that for some kids, meals at the school is the only time they get healthy food. He added that the 12.5 percent increase in meal prices might reduce participation in the lunch program and with state aid declining, could put an additional burden on paying patrons as well as taxpayers.

Messersmith and Lyons said they wanted to use the freshest, most healthy food available and the chance to use products locally, such as from Sehnert Bakery, as the reasons why they preferred Lunch Time Solution.

After using Sodexo for 15 years, maybe a change would be good, Messersmith asserted, adding that preparation of food is just as important as the food itself.

Lyons opened the discussion in choosing a new food service provider, by making a motion to select Lunch Time Solution. She then amended that motion to tabling the item for further discussion, so all board members could look at the RFP's submitted. That was defeated by a 4 to 2 vote, with Lyons and Messersmith voting in favor of it.

The motion then reverted back to voting on Lunch Time Solution as the food service provider. It was defeated by 4 to 2. Krysl made the motion to choose Sodexo, which the board approved by the same 4 to 2 vote.

Larry Young, area manager of Sodexo, was present at Monday's meeting; representatives from Lunch Time Solutions were not.

Young addressed the board and cited the company's 15-year partnership with the McCook school district. "We have you in our best interest," he said. "We don't take it lightly." He added that participation has been steadily increasing the past years and that their program has been revamped, including more fresh fruits and vegetables.

Messersmith asked about a recent news story that involved Sodexo and fraud claim. Young explained it involved a disgruntled employee and three private schools in New York, that were managed by the corporate division of Sodexo. The lawsuit was paid and since that time, Sodexo does not use different divisions to manage schools, Young said.

Haney told the board that he contacted other schools that used Lunch Time Solution, specifically Ogallala and Broken Bow, with meal prices and participation level the same as McCook's.

For providing meals to the school, the food service company pays the school district it is contracted with a lump sum every year, based on rebates the company received from producers. Sodexo and Lunch Time Solution offered a $25,000 rebate.The McCook School District puts those funds into a special school lunch fund. Money that is paid for the meals goes to the food service company.

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I think Mr. Messersmith was referencing a current news article in regard to Sodexo and fraud, not the case Mr. Young was refering to that occurred afew years ago. You can go to cbs.com and type in 'Sodexo' to read the article dated 5/12/12

-- Posted by Ladyg on Tue, May 15, 2012, at 2:52 PM

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