Jeffrey Mills was unfairly fired yesterday (January 14) by DCPS in spite of his success, determination and hard work to overhaul school meals, demand accountability from contractors and move toward a more efficient, cost effective, and healthier food program for DC kids.
DO YOU THINK DC KIDS DESERVE BETTER???
I do- contact DC Council to express your concern over Jeff’s firing, your support for his efforts, and ask what Council will do to follow up on their efforts to address the million dollar deficts racked by by the contractor Chartwells and to get Jeff in a place where he can really do his job. Councilmember David Catania is the chair of the education committee and Erika Wadlington- firstname.lastname@example.org is the lead staff on the issue.
Also call the member who represents your Ward!
Food Service Contracting in the D.C. Public School System
December 20, 2012
Testimony by Becky Levin,
Parent of Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan Student
Members of the DC Council, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you about what can be done to promote the healthiest meals possible in our school system and to maximize the effectiveness of tax payer dollars funding school meals. My name is Becky Levin, I am the mother of a kindergartner at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan, and a coordinator of the school’s Health and Wellness Club. We are working hard to teach our students and their families about nutrition and to promote healthy eating and living throughout our school’s activities.
We all know that children, like adults, require good nutrition to power their brains so that their minds are well-fueled and they aren’t distracted by a rumbling belly. Excellent nutrition is particularly critical for young children, as their brains are still developing. We also know that proper nutrition and exercise are essential to combat childhood obesity, adult obesity, preventable health complications and sky- rocketing health care costs. Thank you for recognizing that supporting healthy school meals efficiently addresses both public health and education issues and is a prudent and cost-effective investment. Providing the highest-quality nutrition through school meals should be a priority. If DCPS cannot support this priority, then perhaps another city agency can.
Thank you Councilman Tommy Wells- you and your staff have been very open to exploring solutions and are always willing to engage on this important subject. I’d also like to thank Councilwoman Mary Cheh and her staff for spearheading the innovative Healthy Schools Act, which is a critical first step in improving quality and standards in DCPS school meals.
I encourage Council to build on this strong beginning to improve student health and school meals by taking the next critical step, bringing meal production and food procurement back within the public sector instead of contracting with private, for- profit vendors. I recognize this is a very significant step, but there is clear evidence to support this transition.
School food service privatization has failed to economically manage food service and promote and maintain high quality- not just in DC but in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Michigan, Wisconsin and across the country. The stories are the same- increases in deficits, decreases in quality, hidden rebates, and profits made at the expense of inferior nutrition for children. Despicable.
Chartwells came into DC promising that privatizing school meals would lower costs, but instead they created a $15 million deficit that puts our education system in the red. They claimed their ability to buy in bulk would lower costs, but it appears that they have hidden rebates in a circuitous and deceitful trail. Last summer parents were told that a new, per-meal-served-contract, would save money, but not harm quality. But quality has been sacrificed. This is the same company that served pink slime instead of 100% real beef (that DCPS then banned), served spoiled and rotten food, switched from all-natural organic yogurt to non-organic Trix brand sugary yogurt, and switched from all- natural, antibiotic-free chicken nuggets to highly processed nuggets- with the bottom line of increasing their profit margin instead of promoting children’s health.
In contrast, the Healthy Schools Act and its implementation by DCPS’s Office of Food and Nutrition Services, led by Jeff Mills is achieving stellar and widely recognized progress. I was just in a meeting last week with senior leadership at USDA, and they applauded our local success and the implementation of the new, improved meal pattern.
In order for the Healthy Schools Act to achieve its potential, our food services team needs to be recognized for their achievements and be awarded with the resources to continue their successful path instead of fighting an uphill battle with a for-profit entity.
We need transparency in our school meals system and accountability- both economically and with regard to health. Chartwells and other for profit contractors have proven in cities across the country, that they don’t want transparency or accountability. It’s clear from the reports in the Washington Post last year about the multiple notices to cure that Jeff Mills and his team issued to Chartwells that they are wasting their time and valuable tax payer dollars policing an irresponsible company we do not need. DC can do this better internally.
I applaud Jeff Mills and his team, who have worked diligently on behalf of our kids to push for the healthiest and best tasting meals possible, looking beyond the status quo and envisioning better ways of operation to benefit our children and the District’s taxpayers. Schools around the country are fighting for a better, more economical way to produce healthy meals. Successes are popping up in Boulder, CO, in Memphis, TN and locally in Baltimore, MD. These school systems are successfully moving away from food service management companies, and looking at innovative ways to cook from scratch, centralize meal production, purchase local fruits and vegetables, and introduce children to healthier foods that taste great. I am interested to learn about the report that Council requested to investigate what alternatives to privatization are and what best practices and models may be. I hope that it is a professional, well-researched report that can provide direction for next steps.
Our bottom line should be what is best for kids. Clearly that’s high quality food that is fresh, minimally processed, seasonal and local, free of antibiotics and additives, lower in sugar, with lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If we don’t invest in this now, then we will be paying for it later in increased healthcare costs. I look forward to hearing about Council’s plans to further improve school meals and hopefully seeing changes for the better.
I’d also like to add that children will eat healthy foods, including vegetables. Our school’s Health and Wellness Club has introduced children to many foods they may have never have eaten before- Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, persimmons, pecans, black beans, plain yogurt, salsa, baked chips, and homemade hot chocolate with much less sugar than in mixes. I watched the same kids make gagging faces at the sight of a squash and then stand in line with twenty other kids for seconds on butternut squash soup. And we ran out of roasted Brussels sprouts, because the children were eating them like candy. Many of these kids- and parents, too- had never eaten these foods or thought they didn’t like them. But when parents and kids tried these foods- which were local, seasonal, fresh, and cooked properly- they loved them! School meals can achieve the same success. We know that increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables decreases risk for obesity and overweight.
Healthy school meals serve an essential role to promote health, wellness, and to introduce new and tasty, healthy foods. Ideally, the DCPS school breakfast, lunch, supper and snack menus can serve as a guide for parents to model and create healthy meals. But we need a willing, responsible partner that places high quality food service and health as the top priorities. I urge you to strongly consider the leadership and success of the Office of DCPS School Food and Nutrition Services, reject empty promises from private vendors, and do what’s best for the children of the District of Columbia- bring school food services in-house.
The Capitol Hill Green Schools Initiative will be hosting a roundtable discussion on DCPS food services, the Healthy Schools Act, support for school gardens and schoolyard greening.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
6:30 pm – 8 pm
Peabody ES Library (FOURTH Floor), 425 C Street, NE
Joining us from DCPS will be:
Jeff Mills, Director of Food Services
Diana Bruce, Director of Health and Wellness
Paula Reichel, Program Coordinator, Office of Food and Nutrition Services
We’ll also have Andrea Northup from the DC Farm to School Network in attendance. Bring your questions and concerns to what I’m sure will be a lively and interesting discussion.
FACEBOOK: Capitol Hill Green Schools Initiative
August 03, 2010
RAISING THE BAR: DCPS Takes First Step to Dramatically Improve the Quality, Taste and Nutrition of School Meals
School System Launches Two Pilot Food Service Models to Bring Fresh and Local Food to 14 Schools
Contact: Jennifer Calloway | (202) 535-1096
WASHINGTON, D.C. – District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) will launch two pilot food service models that will bring fresh and local ingredients to 14 schools –dramatically improving the taste, quality and nutrition of the meals served. DCPS is committed to transforming its food service program to offer the highest quality food for students at the best price and has awarded contracts to two vendors: Revolution Foods will provide fresh portable meals to seven schools; and DC Central Kitchen will provide meals made-from-scratch to seven schools.
Each vendor participated in a competitive Request for Proposal (RFP) process that included a taste test with students and school staff. Vendor proposals were evaluated on numerous criteria including vendors’ capacity to implement specifics of the pilot programs and taste and quality of their menu offerings. DC Central Kitchen gained evaluative points for its unique model of procuring local foods and transforming that food into healthy, appetizing meals. Revolution Foods demonstrated its unique marketing efforts to encourage students to try its healthy food options.
“Children who eat nutritious meals are not only healthier, they are also better learners,” stated Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. “This administration is committed to providing healthy food in schools as one of the crucial supports needed for children to achieve at the highest levels.”
DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee added, “As a mother of two DCPS students, I hear daily about the challenges we face in the cafeteria. Whether it’s taste or variety, I know all too well the impact and impression school meals make on our students.” She continued, “Three years ago, we made a commitment to balance taste and nutrition with a comprehensive food service program that offers the best value to the city. This is a major step forward.”
Chartwells-Thompson, the school system’s current food service vendor, will retain its service contract to provide meals for 108 schools. DCPS and Chartwells’ regional staff have redeveloped and taste tested over 200 of Chartwells’ menu items in preparation for the new school year.
All three vendors will be required to purchase at least 20 percent of their ingredients from within 120 miles of the District. Local sourcing will enable DCPS to serve more fresh fruits and vegetables year-round, which will improve the overall taste and quality of each meal. Local food costs less, and buying local helps reduce DCPS’ carbon footprint, because less fuel is used to move the food from producer to customer.
The total expenditure on all three contracts is expected to be cost neutral. DCPS will continue to evaluate the service provided by all three vendors during the course of the school year and determine the most effective way to provide DC students with nutritious, high quality food service going forward.
Today, August 3 from 7-8 p.m. at 1200 First Street NE–Tony Tata, Chief Operating Officer, Jeff Mills, Director of Food Services, and Diana Bruce, Director of Health and Wellness will host a Food Services Round Table to discuss the school system’s vision for supporting the health and wellness of students. This is a public event at DCPS headquarters open to all DCPS families and community members.
LIST OF PARTICIPATING SCHOOLS
From Scratch: DC Central Kitchen Fresh Portable Meals: Revolution Foods
Kelly Miller Middle School Amidon-Bowen Elementary School
Thomas Elementary School Hearst Elementary School
Burrville Elementary School Anacostia High School
Aiton Elementary School Eastern High School
Kenilworth Elementary School Johnson Middle School
Marshall Elementary School Peabody Elementary School
Prospect Learning Center Woodrow Wilson High School
***DCPS Director of Food Services Jeffrey Mills is available for interviews. Please contact Jennifer Calloway at (202) 701-9364.***