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School District Switches Lunch Provider

Citing calls for a change and reduced costs, district dumps Revolution Foods in favor of San Ramon-based Choicelunch.

On the heels of a school year that required an array of budget cuts and the possibility of hiking the parcel tax, the is switching lunch providers for its six schools, citing financial savings and “dissatisfaction” with the provider of the past two years, Revolution Foods.

The school board approved the switch to San Ramon-based Choicelunch last month, backing the recommendation of Michele Rollins, the district’s assistant superintendent for business services. The agreement is for one year.

“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to serve Mill Valley families,” said Karen Heller of ChoiceLunch.

Rollins said cost was the driving force behind the move, as ChoiceLunch’s bid saves the district 35 cents on every free and reduced lunch under the federally subsidized program for low-income residents. ChoiceLunch does, however, raise the price for parents by as much as $2 per lunch, depending on what type of lunch is ordered. Approximately 16 percent of students in the district bought school lunches during the 2010-2011 school year, Rollins said.

Rollins said that while cost was the driver of the move, the district had come to realize that there was a consistent level of dissatisfaction with Revolution Foods, particularly in terms of its produce and its packaging.

"But I give them credit because they really tried over the two years they were with us to offer our students a quality product,” Rollins said. “For us, if we can cut out costs and maintain a high quality lunch service that makes it a priority to use sustainable and local produce, that has to be a priority for us.”

Heller said ChoiceLunch uses local organic and sustainable produce as often as possible, and has started working with Marin Organics.

“And if there is a fresh fruit or vegetable in our bin and it’s on the dirty dozen, the produce that is most heavily sprayed, it will be organic or certified pesticide free,” she said.

, a Mill Valley resident, said in a statement the company responded to many suggestions from Mill Valley parents and implemented many new programs as a result, including sliced fruit as sides, new packaging that is kid friendly and partnering with .

“Revolution Foods is disappointed we were not selected as this year’s vendor for the Mill Valley School District,” she said. “This is a shared sentiment from many parents, who have written to us over the last few weeks when they heard of the change. We look forward to renewing a relationship with MVSD in the future and welcome the opportunity to serve the community.”

Heller said that ChoiceLunch plans to maintain a relationship with Stefano’s, and she listed mac-n-cheese, pizza, chicken tenders, potstickers and burritos as the most popular items of the firm’s offering.

Heller noted some additional, parent-friendly features, such as the ability to order a meal up to 9 p.m. the morning before and canceling with full credit up to 9 a.m. the same day. She also said the company would be debuting a mobile phone app this summer, allowing parents to order with their phones.

Sophie July 29, 2011 at 12:58 AM
Thank you Jim for your feature about the upcoming change! I am a Director here at Choicelunch and we are thrilled to be partnering with the Mill Valley schools! I wanted to follow up on some of the details in the article, just to clear up any confusion. Our ordering deadline for our pre-ordered lunches is 9 AM the school day before (I think p.m. was likely a typo since you mentioned the morning deadline.) Also, as Karen mentioned, our lunch program is extremely popular with many options. In fact, it is the fact that we have 17 items each day that always change that I believe explains our success. Parents love that they can have gluten-free and vegetarian options each day. As head of recipe development, I can tell you, many people were skeptical when we put hand-rolled fresh sushi, our yogurt parfait featuring Straus Organic yogurt and Sukhis Tandoori chicken on the menu. The best thing? Kids love all of these sophisticated options! We have to give this generation of kids credit: they know what they like and they don't need a 'kids menu' that only features frozen processed junk. Our success comes from the fact that we know Californian kids and they are foodies!:)
Sophie July 29, 2011 at 01:00 AM
Oh, I also wanted to clarify the cancelation policy. Parents can cancel for full credit up to 5 pm the day before or half credit up to 9 am the day of. Didn't want to confuse any new families! http://www.choicelunch.com/start/faq.aspx
Sophie July 29, 2011 at 01:02 AM
Here is more information on Choicelunch's commitment to sourcing local and sustainable produce: http://www.choicelunch.com/about/good-for-the-earth.aspx
Sophie July 29, 2011 at 01:04 AM
And since we are proud to use antibiotic-free meats and dairy, here is another useful link: http://www.choicelunch.com/food/real-ingredients.aspx Enjoy the new lunch program and see why so many Marin families have been raving about Choicelunch for the past couple of years! :) Sophie- Director, Choicelunch
Sophie July 29, 2011 at 01:07 AM
Wanted to mention that with our fresh hand-cut fruit and vegetables, the kids and parents can see what is local and what is organic with stickers we place each morning on the compostable baggies to highlight our sustainable practices.

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