NLCS board votes to renew food services contract with Chartwells

BEDFORD – The North Lawrence Community Schools board voted on Thursday to renew their food services contract with Chartwells, after what was said to have been a successful first year working with the company.

The board previously voted to contract out their food services in an effort to offer workers better wages and benefits through a third party, former superintendent Ty Mungle said during a meeting in April of 2022, when the initial vote was held.

Chartwells were able to raise the starting wage for an employee from $10.50 to $14.25 per hour at the time. Additionally, each employee that chose to stay and apply to retain their position through Chartwells was said to have received an increase of at least $1.25 per hour.

During Thursday’s meeting, NLCS Food Services Director Megan Kelley told the board that they were able to retain around 90% of their previous employees after the move to Chartwells.

Siobhan Carey, Area Director for Chartwells also touted the improved quality of the meals now served, saying many of the items available in North Lawrence schools are freshly made by staff, rather than pre-prepared.

She also spoke about the new options available in schools, many of which include “build your own” concepts to allow students to have more options to create their ideal version of an item, such as a breakfast burrito. She also said her company has implemented a student choice program, allowing students to vote on which options they prefer, and the data they use to influence future offerings.

She said that over the school year, Chartwells has served 131,240 breakfast meals and 377,353 lunches, with a 3% increase in the number of students choosing to eat school lunch meals since the district’s last pre-pandemic year.

Financially, Carey said the deal has also been beneficial for NLCS, with the corporation set to receive a return of $196,583, over $46,000 more than what they were contractually guaranteed to receive. She also said NLCS would receive $211,827 in rebate credits, with just $126,024 in projected fees from Chartwells.