By Josh Resnek
Following a great deal of rancor and debate, as well as heated public meetings about choosing a new food service provider for the city’s public schools, the city’s longtime food service provider Aramark is to be replaced by the Whitson Culinary Group.
From the start of the effort to oust Aramark, the mayor has postured strongly and with great public vigor for the Whitson Group to be chosen.
In the end, Whitson appears like the better choice.
The nine member Cafeteria Committee unanimously chose Whitson over Aramark, who has served as the schools food service provider for longer than two decades.
The introduction of Whitson Culinary into the Everett public schools began in earnest in April, 2019 when a city Request for Proposal (RFP) went out. Only two food service providers responded to the RFP – Aramark and Whitson Culinary.
On May 10, the Food Service Committee, which includes a number of prominent business professionals as well as city employees and members of the school department, including assistant superintendent Charlie Obremski and the Principal of the Madeline English School, Theresa Tringale, traveled to Malden.
There, they visited two public schools to take a taste test as well as to tour the facilities that are run by Whitson.
Aramark and Whitson are as different as night and day.
They run their cafeterias with different food results in mind as well as with different cost and budget implications.
On May 13, the Food Service Committee went to the Keverian and High School, to view the facilities and taste the food from Aramark.
A series of administrative changes altered the RFP during the end of May into June. Both Aramark and Whitson responded.
The new proposals were reviewed by the Food Service Committee on July 25 and July 29.
“Based on the rubric and the comparative evaluation criteria, the food service management fee and the profit going back to the Everett Public Schools, the Food Service Committee scored Whitsons Culinary Group the winner, “ reported Obremski.
Whitsons was chosen because the company demonstrated a capacity to provide school meals with nutritional standards above the USDA minimum requirements.
Whitson was shown to provide better foods, and more nutritious meals provided in a minimum time in a pleasing environment.
According to Obremski, Whitson appears to be better able to create a “Smarter Lunchroom” that practices nutrition education initiatives, independently or in collaboration with partners.
If there is a bottom line, a dividing line, if you will, between Aramark, the tried and true multi- generational food service provider and the upstart Whitson, it is more about money than it is about food.
Whitson sought a management fee of $230,000, $20,000 less than Aramark.
However, the guarantee to the Everett Public Schools from Whitson was $975,000 as compared with Aramark who came in with almost $510,000.
That is a $475,000 difference which ultimately buried Aramark and crowned Whitson.
Longtime cafeteria employee concerns have apparently been met with a Whitson promise to retain all current employees with the same rate of pay.