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Clintondale gets new food service

CLINTON TOWNSHIP – Southwest Foodservice Excellence (SFE) has been awarded a one-year contract with three possible extensions to provide food service to the Clintondale Community School District.

Based in Scottsdale, Ariz., SFE was awarded the contract after scoring higher than the Nutrition Group and, current provider, Aramark, on an evaluation of their proposals.

On May 23, at the recommendation of Superintendent Rodriguez Broadnax, the school board voted unanimously, 7-0, in favor of the change in food service for the 2022-23 academic year.

“We appreciate Aramark for the years that they gave us, but now we are moving forward with SFE,” Broadnax said. “This will need to be a quick transition as they will take over July 1. Summer school starts July 5. I’m excited about their presentation. Now, they gotta do what they say they’re gonna do now. I’m going to put them right on Front Street. They’re gonna have to get our cafeterias (ready). We have new kitchens coming in every elementary school, so we can serve them hot food. They’re being worked on and constructed right now. … It’s perfect timing.”

The food service evaluations were completed by a special district committee that scored the bidding companies on such categories as, covered cost; method of approach and implementation plan; experience; expertise and reliability; and sanitation and safety.

“This is another big move for the district as we now move toward a new food service for our students,” Broadnax said. “We will have those schools ready to go by July 1, so this is perfect timing for a new start with our food service. The board president (Beverly Lewis-Moss) has been wanting this. She has been on me about this since the time I arrived. I’m sure her heart is happy. But our students and parents should be very happy, and our staff should be happy.”

Another reason for the change, Broadnax said, was to give students voice in their food choices. Through SFE, students will have the opportunity to participate in regular taste-testing panels and share their feedback and shape the school menus.

“When we went to enroll students at enrollment rallies at some of the schools around, one of the questions was asked, ‘What kind of lunch do you serve?’ And you would never believe that that’s one of the factors in students choosing whether they want to come to Clintondale or not,” he said. “We had the fifth graders over in our transition assembly at the middle school, and one of the questions, several students asked, is ‘What type of food do you serve in Clintondale?’ ”

Trustee Annika Christiani, a 2017 Clintondale alumna, was thrilled with the SFE proposal.

“Honestly, I’m really excited about this,” she said. “As an ex-student who was on free lunch it’s really nice to see our food get an upgrade.”

SFE says it currently has contracts with 11 public school districts in Michigan, including Mt. Clemens, Pontiac, Southfield, Mt. Pleasant, Dearborn, and Reeths-Puffer Schools in Muskegon.

Justin Pontz, the director of business development at SFE, thanked the school board “for the vote of confidence in me. We’re going to come in and do a really great job for you.”

“Across the board, what we do is meet your district where you’re at, just like you do with your academics,” Pontz added. “We’re gonna bring in some exciting things to Clintondale. Coffee shop and smoothie concepts at the high school, which is a little bit more on trend ... throw a muffin in there and (the students) can feel like they’re at Starbucks. Lots of entree food concepts, creole, barbecue, basically we’re going to give you a world-class food service. Just know, loud and clear, if we don’t do what we say we’re gonna do, then I know you’re gonna be on us.”

Christiani wanted to know if one particular lunchtime favorite would remain on the high school menu.

“Are you gonna keep the Dragon Fuel, which is the mashed potatoes with the chicken nuggets, and the cheese and the gravy?” she asked. “I know whenever that was on (the menu) everybody wanted that. Are you gonna keep that?”

Pontz answered with, “As long as it meets nutritional standards.”