in Houston, Texas
Houston school district says food services company reneges on contract, HISD seeks fix with Aramark
Tuesday, Dec 06, 2011, 03:21PM CST
By Mike Cronin
lunch tray

Senior Houston schools officials are considering terminating the district’s agreement with Aramark after they say the Philadelphia-based food-services company incurred a loss of $1.9 million in district taxpayer money – a contract violation.

“We’re supposed to break even in the worst-case scenario,” said Trustee Mike Lunceford, who chairs the board’s audit committee. “They’re supposed to forecast the amount of food and number of meals the district will need in a year. That’s why we hired Aramark.”

Lunceford said the contract with Aramark contains provisions that ensure the Houston Independent School District meets budget estimates. Aramark manages lunch and breakfast programs and cafeterias for the district. The loss was for the 2011 fiscal year, which ended in June.

“A result that leaves the Food Service program over budget and the District accountable for this loss is unacceptable,” Melinda Garrett, HISD’s chief financial officer, said in a November e-mail to board members and district officials. “Our meetings with Aramark have come to an impasse, and we are moving forward with assistance from Thompson and Horton in filing a claim under the performance bonds.”

A performance bond is a way of guaranteeing that a contractor does what he says he’s going to do.

Aramark officials had previously told HISD officials that the district could expect about a $1.1 million surplus in the food operations, district spokesman Jason Spencer said. Spencer said ending the contract is one option the district is considering and that the contract is up to be rebid next year for food services starting in 2014.

Superintendent Terry Grier met with Aramark’s educational division president, Dennis Maple, in October in an attempt to resolve the situation.

But Maple told Grier “that they felt they did not owe anything and the most they could (possibly) look at to resolve this is around $200,000,” Garrett said.

Karen Cutler, an Aramark spokeswoman responsible for the company’s K-12 education food services, could not be reached immediately. Texas Watchdog left Cutler a voicemail and sent Cutler an e-mail requesting comment, and we’ll update this post if we hear back from her.
Contact Mike Cronin at or 713-228-2850. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelccronin or @texaswatchdog.

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Photo of lunch tray by flickr user .imelda, used via a Creative Commons license.
Bettina at The Lunch Tray
Tuesday, 12/06/2011 - 08:36PM

Just yesterday I wrote a post on The Spork Report (an HISD school food blog that appears on raising some important questions about Aramark, questions that need to be answered even apart from their financial performance:

Thursday, 12/08/2011 - 11:07AM

Sad to see Aramark is still sticking it to their customers just like they do to their employees.

Big Daddy Kahuna
Friday, 12/09/2011 - 07:05AM

There is NO excuse for this. Heads willl roll at Aramark. Hate to be the ones who failed to do their jobs!

Cali FoodServiceGirl
Friday, 12/09/2011 - 10:10AM

I am a Food Service Director, working for a school district which had tried the "Contract Management" route, prior to hiring me. Like HISD, they ended up losing more money than they could afford. In these harsh economic times, districts should seriously reconsider going back to self-op. With the right people in charge, it could save TONS of money, because you are paying salaries and NOT contractor fees! Besides which, being self-op, we have real control over the meals we serve, and don't have to serve the same pre-made cardboard meals offered by most FS Contractors.

Friday, 12/09/2011 - 12:13PM

aramark and sodexho both suck and should not be aloud to work K-12 schools with the low quality food they are so proud of. self op is the way to go..

joe painter
Friday, 12/09/2011 - 01:59PM

I think this is hilarious,that what you school board suits get trying to screww the food service workers.

Wednesday, 01/04/2012 - 12:14PM

It is clear none of the comments are from informed or educated people. I have no affiliated to Aramark however I do understand the difficulties of making money in a poor economy when your hands are tied by goverment, panic riddled uninformed new reports about obesiety that relieves parents of their responsibility and never mentions that students do not attend PE daily, and so on and so forth. It the comments defense below...It is a very very complicated issue. One you might research before safely (behind a made up name) spouting idiocy.

Brendan Ryan
Thursday, 01/05/2012 - 09:37AM

There are 2 entities that do not belong in the K-12 Food Service enviroment,

1- Contract Vendors, Aramark, Chartwells, Sodexo, Compass and on and on, these companies will never be vested in the wellbeing of the Students they serve and only care about the bottom-line profit

2- Labor Unions- K-12 Food Service position are mainly for part-Time employees and were never meant to be "Career Positions" with Full Benefit Packages & Vacation Pay. That sort of salary does nothing but put a strain on keeping the cost of meals affordable.

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