The case against Chartwells

Source: CBS News, August 17, 2018

… Imagine the only meal a schoolchild ate came from a school’s kitchen dishing out spoiled and rotten food. It happens, Mills found out. … In 2010, he took a hefty paycut to take a job as director of food services for Washington, D.C.’s public schools, where he would oversee feeding some 50,000 students. … He took over a system where the food was supplied by Chartwells, a multibillion dollar company that managed the menus and made all the purchase agreements for the food. He was shocked by what he saw. … Mills found the food was poorly prepared, not healthy and, in some cases, unsanitary. … He took his concerns to Chartwells with no real change. Then the contract was up for renewal by the District, and Mills called for an audit. He maintained the school district was being overcharged millions. The school district removed Mills and his team from oversight of the auditors. Mills was told to back off. Three years after he was hired, he was fired. He then sought an attorney for wrongful termination – and as a whistleblower. …

Related:

Auditor: DC Schools Should Stop Outsourcing Food Service
Source: Associated Press, October 8, 2016

A report from the District of Columbia auditor said the city’s school system should stop turning over food service to outside contractors. The report released Friday said outsourcing food service has not saved the city money as school officials promised and will continue to cost the system millions of dollars a year. In their response to the auditor’s report, school officials said they continue to oppose bringing food services back in-house. Former schools chancellor Kaya Henderson repeatedly argued that food service was not a “core competency” of the school system. …

Chartwells Era Ends As DCPS Selects New Food Providers – Following a whistleblower lawsuit last year
Source: Andrew Giambrone, Washington City Paper, May 23, 2016

The school-food provider at the heart of a whistleblower lawsuit in 2015 that revealed substandard food quality and fraud will not serve D.C. Public Schools students next academic year. DCPS announced in a statement on Friday that it has chosen DC Central Kitchen and SodexoMagic, with Revolution Foods as a subcontractor, to provide meals at more than 110 facilities. … The announcement follows a request for proposals DCPS posted in December, featuring a one year contract with four options years to renew. Still, which entities applied for the RFP won’t be publicly available until the contracts are approved because of procurement rules. Under the proposal, 12 schools in Ward 7 would be served by DC Central Kitchen, while the rest would be served by SodexoMagic and Revolution Foods. DC Central and Revolution served hundreds of thousands of meals last year. ….


Audit of Equipment Lays Bare D.C. Schools’ Problems in Kitchen, Again
Source: Jeffrey Anderson, Washington City Paper, March 14, 2016

The saga of D.C. Public Schools’ food services program took a troubling turn last month when D.C. Auditor Kathy Patterson issued a “Management Alert Letter” informing officials that the program lacks an accurate and comprehensive inventory of kitchen equipment. Patterson and her staff visited several DCPS cafeterias and witnessed meal preparation and service, and interviewed cafeteria managers and staff workers. In assessing the equipment the schools use to prepare food, Patterson writes in a Feb. 12 letter to DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson, “We witnessed inefficiencies and waste including equipment that we were told had been broken for a year or longer.” … Patterson intends to provide the D.C. Council with further information in the coming weeks so it can decide on whether to mandate “in-sourcing” the school food program, which could save the school district a considerable amount of money and result in more local control over what DCPS students eat. Her review looks at other school districts, such as Philadelphia, which contracted out with Aramark, a competitor of Chartwells, then brought food service back in-house, she says in an email to Washington City Paper.

Chartwells-Thompson withdraws from DC Schools contract
Source: Mike Buzalka, Food Management, July 15, 2015

Chartwells-Thompson recently settled a whistleblower lawsuit for $19 million that alleged it had mismanaged the dining program and overcharged the city. In her letter, Cass reiterated the company’s “vehement disagree[ment] with the allegations” and noted that “we chose to resolve this matter amicably instead of litigating which would have lasted for years and served as a significant distraction to us, DCPS and the District…Our hope was this resolution would allow us all to move past the distractions and return our collective focus to serving students.

Embattled D.C. schools food vendor quits contract, puts pressure on city
Source: Aaron C. Davis and Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post, July 14, 2015

The vendor that provides food services to the D.C. Public Schools has told the D.C. Council that it wants to withdraw from the contract this fall, a sudden and unexpected move that puts immediate pressure on the District to find a new provider for nearly 100 schools. Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality, the District schools’ embattled food vendor, informed council members Tuesday that it wants to quit the lucrative contract and move on after a large whistleblower settlement and wranglings over allegations of mismanagement.

What Will D.C. Lawmakers Do About DCPS’ Food Services Contract?
Source: Jeffrey Anderson, Washington City Paper, July 9, 2015

At-Large Council member David Grosso, chair of the Committee on Education, said this week he is trying to persuade D.C. lawmakers who have opposed renewing a $32 million food services contract with Chartwells/Thompson Hospitality to withdraw their opposition. … Citing the Healthy Schools Act of 2010, which was enacted partly in reaction to Chartwells-related concerns, Grosso said DCPS pays a higher price than most school districts because it is a national leader in food service and nutrition standards. Once other school districts follow DCPS’ lead, Grosso said, they too will bear the costs of a higher standard. Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, and At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman filed a resolution on July 1 to disapprove the renewal of the contract. Although the resolution affords lawmakers 45 days to resolve their concerns, the D.C. Council goes into recess next week, necessitating a prompt and final decision on whether to renew the contract, Grosso said. …

Hunger Games: Jeff Mills’ whistleblower suit revealed rotting food, fraud, and millions of dollars lost. Why is DCPS renewing its contract with Chartwells?
Source: Jeffrey Anderson, Washington City Paper, July 3, 2015

…It’s the latest in a dysfunctional relationship between D.C. and Chartwells. Chicken nuggets and crates of spoiling milk is one thing. Price-gouging and fraud is another, given that DCPS exercised a renewal option in 2014, after the D.C. Office of Inspector General cited auditor’s findings that Chartwells brought in $19 million less in revenue and incurred $6 million more in costs than promised from 2008 to 2012. Revelations from the lawsuit and a separate employment lawsuit now hover over an arrangement that raised red flags the minute DCPS outsourced food services in 2008. And city officials appear all too willing to wave Chartwells in for another year. …

D.C. settles with former school food services director for $450,000 /Man said he was fired for raising alarms on alleged mismanagement
Source: Emma Brown, Washington Post, July 3, 2014

The District has agreed to pay $450,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by the city public schools’ former head of food services, who had alleged he was fired for raising alarms about the system’s mismanagement of a money-losing contract with its largest food vendor. Jeffrey Mills argued in a federal complaint that Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality overcharged the school system, billed the schools for spoiled produce and shorted the city millions of dollars it was due in rebates. Mills also alleged that top D.C. Public Schools officials ignored evidence of what he said was the company’s waste and abuse…

Lawsuit alleges problems with D.C. schools food vendor
Source: Ann E. Marimow and Emma Brown, Washington Post, April 30, 2014

The former head of food services for the District’s public schools, who was fired after clashing with Chancellor Kaya Henderson last year, alleges in a lawsuit filed Wednesday that the school system was overcharged, billed for spoiled produce and shorted millions of dollars by its largest food vendor. …. The District’s inspector general and attorney general are looking into the school system’s money-losing contract with the food vendor, Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality, according to several people close to the inquiries, including two who said they had been interviewed by investigators. …. Problems with Chartwells have surfaced in other cities, including New York and Chicago….

D.C. school lunch firm questioned on nutrition
Source: Jeffrey Anderson, Washington Times, January 26, 2010

A company that serves meals to 2½ million schoolchildren daily in more than 500 districts nationwide, with multimillion-dollar contracts in both Washington and Chicago, has a history of marginal quality and food-safety scares amid concerns over the nutritional content of its school menus, according to school and company records. Chartwells-Thompson School Dining Services, a subsidiary of the Charlotte, N.C.-based Compass Group, owner of Burger King, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, is one of North America’s largest school cafeteria operators — its contracts with the Chicago Public Schools from 2001 to 2009 totaling more than $289 million and a D.C. operation that could net the firm as much as $140 million from 2008 to 2013. …