Schools’ partnership with Sodexo helps food services turn profit
Schools’ partnership with Sodexo helps food services turn profit
Posted on 08/22/2014
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WEST HAVEN, Aug. 19, 2014 — The food services department of West Haven Public Schools saw a $260,000 surplus at the close of the department’s first year under Sodexo management and will reinvest the money in school cafeteria and kitchen equipment.

The final number for fiscal 2013-14 stands in stark contrast to hefty deficits the department carried before Sodexo, a private company, was hired to oversee food services operations. Sodexo District Manager Alan Dean presented the financial information, along with plans for the upcoming school year, at a Monday night meeting to Board of Education members, who then voted to extend the company’s contract for another year.

Under Sodexo’s and Food Services Director Meg Kingston’s leadership, the West Haven Public School food services department revamped not only its finances, but its cafeteria menu offerings, food quality and programming.

Over the last school year, cafeterias increased food selections to include things like stir fry dishes, chili bread bowls and butternut squash; incorporated visits from Sodexo’s mascot, Lift-Off, to offer fun food and nutrition lessons to younger students; sourced produce from local farms; created a salad bar at West Haven High School; secured a grant for fresh food; and used produce from the Edith E. Mackrille Elementary School teaching garden for a pesto-making lesson with Mackrille students.

Sodexo also helped the district introduce the simple finger-swipe payment method in all cafeterias, invested around $160,000 in new, basic equipment that the district needed replaced or didn’t have previously, and awarded a scholarship to a WHHS student who graduated in June and will now be studying culinary arts.

Additionally, the company sponsored the Future Chefs Contest, which partnered elementary school youngsters with high school culinary students this spring, and helped West Haven Public Schools expand the number of locations in the city providing free breakfast and lunch meals to West Haven children this summer.

“The initial introduction of Sodexo definitely experienced some rough patches, but Sodexo has gone above and beyond our expectations, and we’re pleased with the working relationship our staff members have developed with the company. When it comes to food service finances, I would have been happy breaking even the first year and ensuring the department is a self-sustaining operation,” Cavallaro said. “We can now fund sorely needed equipment upgrades in our kitchens and cafeterias, thanks to Sodexo’s partnership with the district, and can continue creating more diverse and nutritious menu items that our students and parents will be excited about.”

According to Dean, the $260,000 surplus will go toward new equipment, including a deteriorating dishwasher. Before Sodexo came on board, money to replace equipment or cover any deficit would have come from the Board of Education’s regular operating budget. The success the program has seen this year is a testament to the hard work of food services staff and Kingston, Dean said.

New programs will continue to be introduced in school cafeterias, Kingston said. There are plans to apply for additional grants, offer hot breakfast items using a recently secured grant, build and maintain an herb garden at WHHS, and create a smoothie bar.

“I’m looking forward to this coming year,” Kingston said, adding that she hopes to offer another update to the Board of Education in a few months. “Hopefully you’ll see more good things coming out of the food services program very soon.”