Citing flaws in the bid from Revolution Foods, one of three bidders on the 2018-2019 contract to supply meals for Jersey City school children, board members agreed to throw out all three bids and seek new proposals.
But because this comes only days before the school year was due to start, the board also agreed to hire a temporary provider of meals until a new vendor could be selected.
Legal representatives for Preferred Foods, one of the other bidders, threatened to seek a court injunction against the school district if did not rescind the contract with Revolution.
School officials also mentioned that they’d been contacted by staff from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in regards to the contract. When asked for details, board members declined to discuss the federal inquiry on the record.
Preferred Foods, a national brand, previously had the contract under its current corporate configuration and under a previous company it acquired. But the company came under fire over the last several years by parents who complained about a lack of quality, food choices, and reports of alleged spoilage and mold. These claims were never documented, however, and the board last year was forced under state bidding laws to award the contract to Preferred because it was lowest bidder.
Because Revolution’s prices were the same or in some cases lower than Preferred this year, the board voted for Revolution even though Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marcia Lyles and her staff, after an evaluation of their own, recommended Preferred.
“We have authorized our attorneys Rikert – Danzig & Kenny Gross to prepare for any potential legal action as threatened by one of the vendors at the emergency meeting.” – Sudhan Thomas
Representatives for all three bidders were present at the Aug. 22 special board meeting, arguing their case before the board took action. Also at the meeting were a number of parents, some who urged the board to select a food provider other than Preferred.
In July, many of these parents had pushed for Whitson’s Culinary – the third bidder – which currently supplies some meals for afterschool programs. But the price per meal exceeded the per meal bid by the other two vendors.
In the resolution rescinding the contract with Revolution, the school board, however, named Whitson to provide temporary food services to the schools starting on Sept. 6 until a new vendor is selected. Revolution and Whitson are both New Jersey-based companies.
“The administration missed an opportunity by putting out this Request For Proposals without any input from the board and the parents/students,” said Board President Sudhan Thomas. “I have instructed the board nutrition, health, and wellness committee to [include] community, parents, and student participation in this RFP rebid process so that it is truly reflective of the aspirations of the people we serve.”
The committee will exercise oversight in the evaluation process, unlike the previous time.
“The emergency appointment ensures the 30,000 children of our school district will have breakfast and lunch when school begins on Sept. 6, which is our ultimate priority,” Thomas said. “I am hopeful vendors will participate in the rebid process and not act litigiously but we have authorized our attorneys Rikert – Danzig & Kenny Gross to prepare for any potential legal action as threatened by one of the vendors at the emergency meeting.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.