DOE food services contract expires this spring - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

DOE food services contract expires this spring

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 by Jolene Toves

Guam - The Department of Education's food services contract is on the table and the agency's superintendent hopes to dish out better quality food. DOE's contract with Sodexo will end with the close of this school year and according to superintendent Jon Fernandez that means a request for proposal is in the works.

He said, "I think this year we are going to really look closely at how to improve our services for all our students so that means looking at the quality of the food that is being served the interest of our students in terms of what they are eating and the participation of the school lunch."

Fernandez says they will also be looking at cost as for the most part, saying, "It's a wash between outsourced and in-sourced options." He added, "Meaning we are not necessarily saving more money by outsourcing I think the question is where is the funding going to go we know that we want to be able to provide better quality so if we want our resources to buy better quality products versus meeting a profit target we might want to look at those issues going forward."

DOE will also look at how the outsource model should work to maximize student participation for breakfast and lunch programs. At this time there are about six cafeterias that are operated in-house while the rest are outsourced. Moving forward, Fernandez says they may look at a different structure, noting, "So we might look for instance outsourcing that high schools or the secondary schools and have the local side run the elementary schools we might go in a couple different directions so right now we are in the midst of that discussion with my staff internally."

While Fernandez says that they will be informing the Guam Education Board and getting their input on the food services contract prior to putting out an RFP they must also juggle the problem of a lower reimbursement rate from the US Department of Agriculture. The reimbursement rate is intended to reflect the cost of transportation of products over greater distances and while Alaska and Hawaii receive higher reimbursement rates Guam does not.

"So part of what we are going to do is bring that to the attention of our congresswoman and our USDA officials to see if we can get some congressional action to amend and raise our reimbursement rates to reflect the true cost of providing food to our students," Fernandez said.
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