The Burlington School Committee in its Feb. 14 meeting heard a presentation from Whitsons Culinary Group, the company chosen to provide food service in district schools.
Christine Catterton, regional vice president of sales for Whitsons according to her LinkedIn, said the company is family-owned and based in Long Island, New York. “We are the fourth largest K-12 food service provider in the United States, and we are ranked 16 out of the top 50 food service providers,” Catterton said.
Catterton said cafeteria workers in Burlington schools will remain employees of the district, and the terms of their employment will remain the same.
In the presentation, Whitsons representatives said the company aims to use high-quality ingredients like seasonal produce, hormone-free poultry and pork, lower-sugar and non-GMO options, and local seafood.
“We provide unlimited fresh fruits and vegetables,” Catterton continued, “Which means that if a student comes through and buys the meal of the day, whatever that may be, if they want to come back and have seconds of fruits and vegetables, there’s no additional charge to them of that.”
A sample breakfast menu included maple oatmeal, reduced sugar cereal, graham crackers, low-fat milk, juice, and fresh fruit.
John Gersbeck, senior vice president of operations at Whitsons Culinary Group, said parents will be able to go online and look through upcoming menus to filter for their child’s allergens and dietary needs.
In middle and high schools, Gersbeck said that depending on the size and space of each school’s facilities, Whitsons aims to provide “World Market” services: cook-to-order entree stations featuring international dishes from Mexican, Japanese and Indian cuisines, and grab-and-go salads and sandwiches.
“You may not see all these items Day One, but that’s our goal,” Gersbeck said.
The School Committee issued a Request for Proposals for a food service firm in December in the hopes of guaranteeing a profitable program, eliminating the risk of using funds from the school operating budget to cover a deficit at the end of the year. The district had avoided doing that in recent years due to the pandemic and Massachusetts’ free meals program, which is set to expire at the end of the 2022-2023 school year.
Whitsons’ proposal to the School Committee included a guarantee of a $90,000 surplus for the remainder of the year.
Whitsons already serves the communities of Lexington, Winchester, Wellesley, and Newton, among others in Massachusetts.
School Committee Chair Katherine Bond said she wished the committee had heard the presentation before the company was selected, but was glad the representatives could come.
Food service through Whitsons is expected to launch on March 6.