News Stories

BPS Looks Outside to Manage Cafeterias

Burlington Public Schools has sent out RFPs for a new food-service management company with the impending retirement of Food Director Karen Damaso.

The RFPs marks the first time the school system will look outside for management, as for all these years it has been done in-house. All cafeteria workers will remain.

While a new food-service can bring changes to the menu, one thing School Committee members want to see off the menu is plastic utensils and Styrofoam plates.

The fact that they are used came as a surprise to longtime School Committee member Christine Monaco.

“I want you take all those Styrofoam plates and throw them out, “Monaco said during a recent meeting. “In the worst case scenario, use decent paper plates.”

Monaco said sometimes people give her a hard time for being as experienced as she is on the committee. “But there are some benefits. I know what the cafeteria food was like in the ‘70s and in the ‘80 and in the ‘90s.”

She also knows plastic can finds its way into foods.

While the costs of being more green are not insurmountable, Supt. of Schools Eric Conti said the first step should be collecting all the RFPs and have a group look over the proposals, a group that could include a cafeteria worker and a student.

Committee member Martha Simon asked when vendors are being interviewed that the question of using less plastic utensils should be top of mind.

Chairperson Katherine Bond says she likes how local eatery Sweetgreen does it. Instead of plastic containers for salads, they instead use a biodegradable product, she said.

School Committee member Melissa Mossardo is in favor of exploring all options.

She attended a School Committee conference in early November and met with two of the companies. Both committed to keeping current staff and offering a more diverse menu. They would do the ordering and staff would implement the cooking, she said,

“Both of them integrate into curriculum with nutritional lesson plans and science plans,” she said.

They also suggested cook-offs where students get involved by making creative and diverse dishes, such as burritos and empanadas and then choose which goes on the menu.

“Which really gets the buy-in from kids to try new things,” she said.

Conti pointed out that searching for a new food-service vendor is not a criticism of what’s been happening. “But when ever there is a retirement, there is an opportunity to see what’s out there,” he said.