By Ryan Cornell
FRONT ROYAL -- The Warren County School Board has asked Superintendent Pam McInnis to negotiate a contract with Sodexo Inc., its current food service management company, for the upcoming school year.
Two other companies, Aramark and Chartwells, attended the division's pre-proposal meeting earlier this year, though Sodexo was the only company that submitted a proposal.
The proposal contains a guaranteed return of $175,000 -- an increase of $45,000 from the current year's contract -- a $4,000 increase in annual scholarships, a $500 increase to introduce new programs in Warren County and a new $2,500 backpack food program.
Sodexo's proposal also includes induction cooktops for the division's elementary schools, electronic menu boards at its two high schools, tablet computers at each of the schools for electronic submission of free or reduced lunch applications and a part-time dietician, who will ensure that school menus are compliant with U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations and will work alongside school nurses.
According to the proposal sent by Sodexo, a total of $954,022 has been returned to the Warren County Public Schools Cafeteria Fund over the past five years for improvements, maintenance and new equipment.
The proposal states that the registered dietician added to the school division will allow school nurses to assist students with dietary needs, provide classroom nutrition education and oversee the development of menus.
McInnis suggested they add the $4,000 increase in annual scholarship money -- the company currently provides $6,000 for a scholarship -- for the backpack food program, which feeds low-income students on weekends.
"We certainly appreciate the scholoarships, but I think they are a food service company and they have added $2,500 into a backpack program to help support us," she said. "But we have those types of programs at every one of our schools now and I think the $4,000 could be used very well with those food programs we provide."
The management fee from Sodexo has increased since the current year's contract by 2.2 percent, from .283 cents to 0.29 cents per meal. This fee is backed by a guaranteed minimum; if the program fails to generate at least $175,000 next year, it will not have to pay the fee.
After McInnis negotiates with Sodexo, the contract will be submitted to the School Board and the Virginia Department of Education for final approval.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or email@example.com