After eight years, Naperville 203 shifting to new food service contractor

Naperville Unit District 203 students will be choosing from new breakfast and lunch options next school year.

Last week the school board unanimously approved a food service contract with OrganicLife LLC, ending eight years of contracts with Aramark. School districts are required to go out to bid after five years on a contract, but District 203 was allowed to extend with Aramark for three years due to the pandemic.

OrganicLife submitted the lowest bid among four companies, including Aramark. The contract includes a $1.98 meal rate for breakfast while the $3.95 rate for lunch and a la carte options represents a 23% increase from this school year.

District officials solicited 14 vendors but most didn't submit bids. The actual meal prices for students will be determined at a future board meeting.

"Price must be the primary factor for this contract award and for all procurement options," District 203 Superintendent Dan Bridges said.

The district will pay $4.5 million for the 2023-24 contract with OrganicLife. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will contribute $491,000 to offset the price increase while about $1.6 million will be reimbursed through state and federal school nutrition programs.

OrganicLife passed 12 categories of criteria to receive the bid. All meal disposables, such as trays, plates, utensils, bowls and cups, will be recyclable or compostable. Chicken products will be made from chicken breast or chicken breast with rib meat and contain 2% or less of soy protein and other fillers.

Bridges said district officials received positive feedback from surrounding districts that currently have contracts with OrganicLife, including Indian Prairie Unit District 204.

Bridges also said input from students and parents will be gathered next school year before the district commits to renewing the OrganicLife contract.

"There is specific student and parent input that is received informally over the lifetime of any of our contracts," Bridges said. "As we look into the future, our team has talked about a number of ways to incorporate the use of a wellness committee, as well as even looking at menu planning in the future."

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