School meals in Boston Public Schools (BPS) will be healthier and more locally sourced this fall, as part of a new three-year food service contract awarded over the summer.
Edith Murnane, the City’s Director of Food Initiatives and JP resident, told the Gazette that this “really exciting” move will help give BPS students a taste for healthier food.
Whitsons Culinary Group won a $12.2 million annual contract to provide meals to BPS students for three years last month.
Whitsons is expected to have a new Boston-based commissary ready “in the next couple of months,” which will provide a much higher percentage of locally and regionally sourced food to all BPS schools, including those without kitchen facilities on the premises, Murnane said.
According to Murnane, those schools without kitchens tend to be older, smaller and usually filled with younger students.
And “elementary school students are the ones we really want to make sure we’re educating,” she said—both their minds and their taste buds.
“You create a palate early on. [Whitsons is] really cognizant of that,” she said. “We really want to create an environment where students are getting delicious local food, fruits, vegetables, all of it.”
Murnane said that right now, Whitsons sources 41 percent of its food from New York and New England, a rate that is expected to increase.
“They will be hitting more local people, sourcing even more products local to Boston and local to Massachusetts,” she said.
One of Whitsons’ techniques is to buy local, in-season produce and flash-freeze it, so it is available to BPS year-round, Murnane said.
According to a release, Whitsons, based in Islandia, N.Y., had the highest composite rating–which included a blind taste test—among the three vendors vying for the three-year contract.
Although its $12.2 million annual proposal was higher than the $11.4 million proposed by another vendor, the evaluation committee consistently ranked Whitsons’ proposal higher than the other bids across a variety of factors. Under state contracting guidelines, public agencies can select a vendor that does not offer the lowest bid when this occurs.
The district, through its vendor, serves approximately 11 million meals a year to more than 57,000 students. This past school year BPS became one of the first major districts in the nation to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students regardless of income.