The New Rochelle BoE last week passed Resolution 1079 (pdf) awarding a $973,636 contract for food service management to Chartwell’s. The losing bidders were Whitsons and Aramark which recently settled a half-million dollar lawsuit against the district.
Brief digression: during the regular board meeting there were just two people in the room who did not work for the district or sit on the school board (me and some other guy). On the way out of the building I spoke with him and learned he was a representative from Aramark. Suffice to say he was not happy. I would describe him as “annoyed”.
OK. Back to the award resolution.
I am not terribly familiar with how the school district manages all this but I did notice that on Page 2 of the document attached to the resolution is a table which indicates a $1.53 mm “guaranteed return to district” so I decided to ask about it because it sounded a bit like the District is making a lot of money by selling food to a captive audience of schoolchildren. I also do not understand how you get a $1.53 mm guarantee out of a $973,636 contract.
Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak responded to my question by saying that the school district was not making a profit of $1.53 million. That he wishes they could make a profit like that. He said the money was being used to pay expenses of the school district. I listened carefully to his answer (as you always should when he is speaking) and did not hear him elaborate on exactly what expenses the $1.53 million was being used to cover but it seemed he was not terribly responsive to my question.
It sure sounded like he was saying that they money is used by the District to pay people and buy things. In either case, my question was about whether or not the district was getting a built-in guaranteed margin in its contract with Chartwells. In other words, is someone collecting money from the kids and passing $1.53 million of that money back to the school district? Because, it does not matter how exactly they spend the money; if they are getting a guaranteed, built-in margin then that is a profit margin. In fact, it is really more like a legal kickback. And if that is the case, I would like to know why the school district is, in effect, overcharging children one-and-a-half million bucks so it can take that money and spend it on a discretionary basis.
I would also be interested to know how the so-called “Wellness Program” impacts of all this. Several years ago a small group of “food nazis” pressured Dr. Adrienne Weiss and the school board into agreeing to a food program driven by a tiny, loony group of vegans who used their supposed concern for “the children” to foist their vegan dietary choices on thousands of school children, many of whom eat about half their meals each week at school. The vegan food nazis employed a classic “foot in the door” approach – their preferred strategy as described on change.org:
In order to build a campaign of this magnitude, I would make three major suggestions. First, do not use a message that could put people on the defensive. I agree that a vegan diet is definitely healthier, but I would not use vegan in a national campaign to change a public school issue. I think using a word like “healthy” or a concept like “Reduce, Refine, Replace”, used by HSUS, would be more effective. Second, I would try to develop a working relationship with other groups with similar goals or campaigns like HSUS or PETA. Every campaign may have a different message, but the goals are the same. Not every message will appeal to everyone. Third, I would focus on small victories. When we are talking about the national school lunch program, a small victory would have a huge effect on the health of the kids and the lives of animals. For example, imagine if soy, rice, or almond milk was offered and promoted as an option with lunch. What if students could chose between a cow burger and a boca burger? The process has to start somewhere.
First, they sought a “small” and “reasonable” change – ban products with sugar like soda and candy. What parent would not agree that kids should eat less chocolate and drink less Pepsi or Coke? So, remove all the vending machines that sell soda and candy and remove “dessert” options that use sugar; replace them with fruits and vegetables. Ban fundraising based on selling products with sugar in them.
Next, they would push for kids to eat only “whole grain” foods like whole grain bread. What parent would not agree that it is healthier to eat whole grain bread? Of course, their real purpose is to stop the use of white flour.
After this, replace milk from cows with soy milk as a healthier, low-cholesterol alternative.
Stop serving Jell-o, even sugar-free jello because it is not nutritious.
Now at this point you might be wondering why the food nazis are targeting milk, sugar, white flour and jell-o. What do they have in common?
White flour is “enriched” with vitamins. These vitamins are derived from dead animals. White sugar is filtered through “char”, which is made from burnt animal bones.(char is also used in fish aquariums). Jell-o contains gelatin which is made from ground up animal bones. Milk comes from cows that are kept on farms in deplorable conditions.
If you’ve bought into the food nazi program so far then they’ve set you up for the next logical step — their ultimate goal — ban all meat products from public school lunch programs (and any product that comes from animals.
While this step-by-step process is underway, you also want to run some parallel operations to lay the ground work for the ultimate full-vegan lunch program.
Inside that schools offer vegan diet meals for those who are vegans. That sounds reasonable, right? Almost like a First Amendment issue! The point, however, is to get the school working with suppliers who sell vegan products and get other students interested in selecting food from the vegan plan created the vegan students.
Find vegetarian or vegan teacher to sponsor a vegetarian or vegan club at school.
Encourage teachers to assign projects on “animal rights”.
Create “organic farming” programs at the school so kids can grow organic fruit and vegetable products.
Sponsor gift subscriptions for magazines like Vegetarian Times to the school library, cafeteria, and culinary department.
Keep pressing the idea in every available forum — PTA meetings, school board meetings, school assemblies — that vegan meals are healthier, that it reduces the “obesity epidemic”, that kids IQs will go up, that kids will be “more alert”, that healthier kids will mean lower expenses for future health care, thus helping save programs like medicare, argue that vegan diets are known to be disease-preventing, point out that meat (red and white) contains way more cholesterol and fat than vegetarian and vegan foods, assert that obese kids will have heart attacks later in life.
Number one on their list, however, is incorporating the “healthier meals” vegan mantra school curriculums by developing a full curriculum model for using the growing of food and the planning and preparing of meals as contexts within which to teach a wide array of subjects from botany to history, from health to economics and so on.
And the net effect of this in New Rochelle?
Sources tell Talk of the Sound that a big part of the Aramark lawsuit revolved around a significant decline in students purchasing food from the school cafeterias so that the District was losing $300-400k a year on food service. Turns out few kids want to eat a vegan diet. Surprise!
The Huguenot Herald, the high school paper, ran a front page story on the development of an underground economy — kids selling candy bars and soda out of their lockers. This underground economy still thrives — even teachers sell candy and soda in their classrooms.
Anyone who has gone past the corner of Eastchester and North around lunch time on a school day knows that Chicken Joe’s, Beechmont, McDonald’s, North Avenue Eatery and the chinese food and pizza place are packed with kids looking for “real food”. And all of those kids are AWOL from school.
Meanwhile, PTA moms have been turned into “criminals” for running illicit bake sales. I have been at school board meetings — the same people who voted for these food nazi programs — where contraband foods (cookies! cake! pie!) is being sold openly (gasp!)
I would be curious to know how much the District had to pay out to settle the Aramark case, how much they were losing since the new vegan-inspired program was put in force and how many kids are truant from school during the middle of the day as a result of this so-called “Wellness Program”.
From what I can tell, the program has cost the district between $1mm and $2mm. And the food nazis? Well, their leader was a woman with a son at New Rochelle High School. Weeks after the board voted to approve the new vegan-inspired program her son graduated and she has not been seen at a school board since. The residue of her food nazi campaign, however, lingers on and YOU pay for it!