After months of less than desirable student food delivery and service, Forest Park School District 91 will begin the process of seeking out a new vendor for its school meal program.
At the district’s Dec. 10 school board meeting, Ed Brophy, assistant superintendent of operations, told the school board the administration’s concerns regarding current food vendor Gourmet Gorilla. Gourmet Gorilla, which is located on Chicago’s North Side, works to provide locally sustainable and healthy options for school lunches. The company currently provides student breakfasts and lunches to all five schools in District 91.
According to Brophy, the vendor has continually dropped the ball this fall when it comes to improving delivery and other food related concerns.
“[Issues] range from making the wrong deliveries to the wrong schools where we then have to go and replace items from one school to another, to food products delivered being spilled on their packaging and the inadequate number of items delivered,” said Brophy. “The issues have been recurring to the point that it’s problematic and there will be a recommendation to the board in January to discontinue service with this vendor.”
Mary Win Connor, school board president, voiced her disappointment with the company, saying the district took precautionary measures before hiring the firm to ensure operations would run smoothly.
“We checked their references, did food tastings and vetted them very well,” Connor said. “It is possible that they just bit off more than they could chew this year and their growing pains are more than we can handle.”
Brophy agreed, saying the various issues are ones that could not have been predicted.
“There have been numerous opportunities for these issues to be resolved,” he said. “They have not been resolved, they continue to occur and what’s most disappointing is that all that was done to prepare for this year’s program are issues that simply could not be foreseen.”
Becca Latham, District 91’s public relations person, says the district is looking to start the process to solicit bids within the next few weeks to find a new food vendor for the remainder of the school year.
“As District 91 participates in the National School Lunch Program, it must follow a specific bid process when it comes to its food service program,” Latham said. “This process will begin shortly in order to ensure that potential vendors have a reasonable period of time to evaluate the bid documents.”
The district’s contract with Gourmet Gorilla includes a 60 day-out clause, meaning once the firm has been notified of the decision, the district will continue to have service for 60 days. If the decision is made to select a new vendor, the new company will begin to serve the district in mid-March and continue through the end of the spring semester. If satisfied, District 91 could decide to move towards an annual renewal contract with the vendor for the 2016-2017 school year.