BY MELANIE BUCK –
After months of discussion, four site visits, and two cafeteria employee meetings, the Mena School Board heard a proposal Tuesday night, April 26th, and approved a measure to outsource the district’s food service program to Aramark. The company was one of three firms which submitted bids on managing the program.
The district began to discuss outsourcing during the 2013-2014 academic year. Requests for proposals were sought, and a committee reviewed the proposals from Aramark, Chartwells, and OPAA. The Aramark bid includes a 2% raise on day one for food service employees. They will receive a $200 signing bonus on day 90, and the company provides a benefit package.
The revenue from food service has been in decline since 2012 in the Mena School District. Under direction from the school board, Superintendent Benny Weston has been looking for ways for the district to provide quality food with more choices for students. Increased student meal participation will raise food service revenue, which the district will then invest into upgrades for cafeteria equipment.
Aramark’s bid includes specific investments to the district. The company will spend $25,500 for “age-segmented marketing.” A total of $41,600 will be invested for marketing and equipment. A “Cool Caf” providing three to five food choices to students will be installed at Louise Durham and Holly Harshman Elementary. Mena Middle School will have five to seven food choices to students offered by the implementation of “The Tines,” a food-court-inspired concept. The U.B.U. Lounge and food stations will be installed at Mena High School offering students nine or more daily choices in an even more relaxed atmosphere. $5,500 in four digital menu boards, $4,000 in small wares and $600 for a Kaivac machine will also be invested. Aramark will provide $1,000 in annual student scholarships and $6,000 for a mobile smoker/grill that can be used by the district and community. Aramark will also create a comprehensive catering program that can be used by the district and will be available for the community.