By Diana Whittle
After a 31-year relationship with the same food-service company, the Kyrene Governing Board has opted to end its contract with Sodexo and selected SFE, Southwest Foodservice Excellence, as the new meal provider at all 26 of the district’s schools.
When classes resume in August, Arizona-based SFE will oversee Kyrene’s Nutrition Program on a contract worth approximately $5.4 million. SFE’s headquarters is in Scottsdale and the company currently has customers in seven states. Sodexo’s worldwide reach, by comparison, spans 80 nations.
Dr. David Schauer, Kyrene’s superintendent, introduced the SFE team at the July 9 Governing Board meeting.
“Kyrene is excited to welcome Southwest, and they are motivated to do a good job for us.”
As required by purchasing regulations from the state of Arizona, all school districts are required to review their contracts through a competitive Request For Proposal process every five years.
In the previous solicitation for food service vendors, Sodexo was the only respondent, said Jeremy Calles, chief financial officer for the Kyrene District.
Although SFE was the newcomer to Kyrene’s bid process, a district spokesman said the firm became the frontrunner when evaluated by a committee that included principals and administrators.
While the district is not allowed to make a profit from the food-service program, Kyrene can use portions of the earnings to cover indirect costs, such as utilities and custodial services, explained Calles.
“In recent years, participation in the food program had declined, and so the proceeds were no longer adequately covering the associated direct costs. We expect this trend to change in the upcoming years,” said Calles.
“SFE is unique because it specializes in K-12 child nutrition as their only focus and promises to put your child’s nutrition first,” said Paul Stanley, the new, on-site food service director. Stanley is a SFE employee whose job is to oversee their work at all the Kyrene schools.
“At Southwest, we have a desire to enhance children’s experience with food. We plan to have food that is nutritional, but also great tasting, such as fresh bread baked at the school. We will be taste-testing with students to adjust the menu as needed.
“Additionally, SFE Master Chef Victor Sepulveda will be solely dedicated to Kyrene. He plans to create new recipes throughout the school year to keep the meal choices varied.”
The services of SFE’s nutritionist, Erica Griffith, will be available to teachers to develop classroom instruction on nutrition and interactive ways to encourage healthy eating habits. She also will ensure that menus meet or exceed all nutrient requirements for students.
SFE promises more food options, including salad bars with fresh fruits and vegetables. At middle schools, students will find a wide variety of choices at food stations that will include deli sandwiches, pizzas, burritos and more, said Stanley.
Meal prices will be the same this year and payment can be made in advance on-line at www.kyrene.org, (select the Quick Link on the home page for school lunch menus) .
Information about Kyrene’s Nutrition Program also will be available at upcoming “Meet the Teacher Nights:
Middle Schools, from 5 to 7 p.m., Wednesday, July 31;
Elementary Schools, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 1.