ELKO – Southwest Foodservice Excellence, known as SFE, has been awarded a five-year contract to provide food service to Elko County School District after scoring higher than the current provider, Chartwells K12, on an evaluation of their proposals.
School trustees voted in favor of the change at the recommendation of Superintendent Clayton Anderson with one nay vote from the board president, Teresa Dastrup, who thanked Chartwells for the company’s service.
“I’ve been here long enough to know Chartwells really worked and worked to try to work through the challenges of our district,” she said on May 24, but she added that she would support the board’s decision.
Anderson said the district put out a request for proposals, and SFE scored the highest in evaluations completed by a special committee.
“Despite the positive interaction I’ve always had with Chartwells employees, that’s how the scores came out, and that is where the recommendation comes from,” he said.
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The committee studying the proposals from Chartwells and Scottsdale, Ariz.-based SFE gave a score of 92 out of 100 to SFE and a score of 83 to Chartwells. The categories covered cost; method of approach and implementation plan; experience, expertise and reliability; and evaluation of 21-day menu samples.
SFE scored 28 points on cost, Chartwells, 24. On implementation of a plan to meet the needs of the district, SFE scored 24, Chartwells, 20. On experience, expertise and reliability, Chartwells scored 20, SFE, 18, and on the menu sample, SFE scored 18, Chartwells, 16.
SFE’s proposed cost rates included a management fee of 7.24 cents per meal and an administrative fee of 15.62 cents per meal, according to the school district. Chartwells proposal was 15 cents per meal and an annual administrative fee of $150,000.
The Chartwells executive chef for the district, Jeff Tobias, said in public comment earlier in the meeting that Chartwells employees are “disheartened” at the possibility of losing the contract after serving the district eight years.
“I believe Chartwells has done a great job keeping employees on with the pandemic and keeping children fed during the pandemic. I know the competition is making great promises, but we know what Chartwells has done – a good job,” Tobias said.
Chartwells K12 and the school district provided meals through hand-out stations in Elko, Spring Creek, West Wendover, Wells, Jackpot, Carlin and Owyhee during the pandemic when the public schools were shut down and children were going to school remotely.
Monty Staggs, chief executive officer of SFE, said on March 25 that “SFE is honored to partner with Elko County School District to bring healthy and delicious meals to students. We are excited to bring our fresh-from-scratch approach and focus on local partnerships to students’ plates across the district. We look forward to working with the talented Elko team and support their individual growth through hands-on, best-in-class training.”
In answer to a question from Trustee Matt McCarty, Anderson said that some of the employees in the food services are Chartwells employees and certain ones are school district employees, and those employed by the district will “maintain that status.” Chartwells employees will no longer be employed, but he said “it is anticipated” that SFE will be looking to employ the majority, other than management.
Staggs said in the emailed statement that the company “is thrilled to welcome the Elko County School District team to SFE. District employees will remain Elko County School District employees and non-management employees of the former food service management company will be offered their same position with SFE. We can’t do it without them, and we are excited to work together to bring great meals to Elko students.”
McCarty thanked Tobias, and he said that after looking at the scores he felt the board should accept the superintendent’s recommendation to outsource the school program to SFE.
Trustee Jeff Durham said that there was a “pretty significant gap” in the rubrics for the two companies, but Chartwells scored higher on experience and reliability and that “jumped out at me.” He said, however, that the rest of the percentage differences can’t be ignored.
Trustee Dr. Joshua Byers praised the committee for the work in going through the lengthy proposals, and he said “I don’t make this decision lightly when jobs are at stake, but the district has to make the best decision for students and the district itself.”
The proposals were available for viewing in the district office, but the only viewers were trustees Byers and Susan Neal, according to Anderson.
Chartwells began providing meals for schools in Elko County in 2015, after the school board decided to outsource food distribution services, and the contract was renewed in 2016. The company has operated under that contract until expiration on June 30.
“A food service request for proposals is required every five years. COVID-19 resulted in extensions for many states, including Nevada, which is why our last RFP was more than five years ago,” said Chief Financial Officer Julie Davis.
SFE serves 160 school districts nationwide, according to the company.