BURLINGTON - In lieu of Food Service Director Karen Damaso retiring from her position of 24 year at the end of November, school officials approved a motion to move forward with Whitsons as the district’s food vendor for the rest of this school year,

The food service management company had the highest ratings and best reviews when being evaluated by school officials, so they were selected over Aramark and Fresh Picks Cafe.

Whitsons will take over and oversee the role of what the former food service director did for the last 24 years. The current cafeteria workers would remain on staff as they are.

Maybe the biggest benefit of partnering with this food service management company is the ability to write a contract guaranteeing a “break-even/profit” each fiscal year for the school lunch budget.

“If we are not at a profit or break-even margin at the end of the year, then [the food service management company] would be required to cut us a check,” explained School Supt. Dr. Eric Conti.

The meal options may seen an improvement, as well, with expanded menu options including vegetarian and locally sourced fresh foods.

The plan is to do a trial run with a food service management company starting now and have it run through the end of this school year. At that point, school officials will decide if it’s an initiative they want to move forward with permanently, or pursue the other option which is to hire a food service director from within the department to fill Damaso’s role.

The “self-sustaining program” one of these vendors will provide, guarantees a full reimbursement and annual profit. A food service contractor’s role entails menu planning, overseeing staff (to an extent), and filling out paperwork to the state, among other obligations.

Currently, the district has an acting food service director, and Dr. Conti said she will remain in that role once the food service management company is up and running. The rest of the cafeteria staff will also remain in their current positions, but the food service company will likely help make their job more efficient.

Whitsons now assumes the role as the food service management company for Burlington Public Schools through June 30, 2023, wherein a 2-year option for the district to extend the existing contract will be decided by school officials.

The School Committee was in support of Whitsons getting the nod.

“I was impressed with Whitsons,” declared School Committee member Martha Simon. “I am in support of it.”

School Committee Chair Katherine Bond requested Whitsons provides food samples and that other districts currently using Whitsons, such as Winchester and Lexington Public Schools, give Burlington school officials a “proof is in the pudding” reference as to their sentiments towards the popular food service management company.

The committee approved Whitsons as the food service company for the district by a 4-1 vote. Member Christine Monaco voted against, as she is generally opposed to any food service management company taking on the school lunch responsibilities.

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