School’s out for the summer, but problems persist in the new system for delivering food to school cafeterias that the Bloomberg administration—on multimillion-dollar advice from the consultancy Accenture—implemented last fall.
As the Voice reported back in April, the city’s Department of Education sought to save money by folding more than a dozen separate contracts for delivering food into three big ones: one for the Bronx and Manhattan, one for Queens and part of Brooklyn, and the other for Staten Island and the rest of Brooklyn. The volume of food involved proved too large a load for the three contract winners to handle right away, so the city had to front the firms money to pay for deliveries, fine the firms tens of thousands for late deliveries, and bring in other companies to help. At last report, the school system’s independent investigator was taking a look at the contracts.
Nutrition advocates were worried in the fall that the delivery woes would convince kids to stop eating school lunch, and head to the snack machine—a move that could be unhealthy for their bodies and their parents’ wallets. But statistics showed no falloff in school lunch usage. And school officials told the Voice in last March that the delivery problems were largely resolved.
Since then, $89,000 in additional fines have been applied. One of the firms, Watermelons Plus, has now been hit with more than $200,000 in charges. In addition, some of the delivery firms might have to pay an additional penalty for delivering food they purchased when they were supposed to deliver donated food.
One of the three original delivery firms, Louis Foods, has asked to be released from its contract, but the DOE hasn’t decided whether to let them out. Whether Louis stays or goes, the school department is planning to re-bid the delivery contracts in the fall; how they’ll be structured isn’t clear yet. The timing means another school year will start under the current system, with a switch coming around December 1.