Metro

Boston schools choose new food vendor

Whitsons Culinary Group had prepared school meals for city school students.
Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/File
Whitsons Culinary Group had prepared school meals for city school students.

The Boston school system, after months of complaints from parents and health advocates about its food provider, has awarded a contract to a new vendor known for producing fresh healthy meals.

The three-year, $38.4 million contract will go to Revolution Foods, which plans to provide mostly fresh breakfasts and lunches instead of the highly controversial previously frozen entrees that have been a staple at most city schools.

Boston school officials are expected to make the announcement Tuesday. Superintendent Tommy Chang said Revolution Foods prevailed in the bidding process by putting together the best proposal, which scored many “advantageous” marks and few “disadvantageous” ones.

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“I’m extremely excited to work with a national leader to provide healthy breakfasts and lunches for our students,” Chang said. “Revolution Foods has a mission to build lifelong healthy eaters. We know when students eat healthy they are stronger academically.”

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The contract will be in effect for the upcoming school year. Revolution Foods beat out two other competitors, Preferred Meal Systems and Whitsons Culinary Group, which holds the current contract.

Many parents and health food advocates had thought Whitsons was a shoo-in to again win the contract because the company said earlier this year that it had secured a lease at a Boston facility to ramp up production of fresh meals and reduce a reliance on frozen entrees. Boston is the only school system in Massachusetts that Whitsons makes meals for.

But the announcement of a new facility did little to curb the appetite for a new vendor among many parents, advocates, and students who faulted Whitsons’s frozen meals for poor taste.

About two-thirds of the city’s 125 schools must rely on meals made off-site because the schools were constructed decades ago when students brought lunches to school and consequently lack full-service kitchens. These schools are equipped with warming ovens and limited refrigeration.

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The other schools have cafeterias, where meals are made on site.

Revolution Foods, which will use a facility in Chelsea, plans to work with Commonwealth Kitchen, Community Servings, and other organizations. It intends to employ about 35 people locally.

“We are so honored to be BPS’s partner,” said Kristin Groos Richmond, chief executive and cofounder of Revolution Foods.

“We started our company in 2006 to dramatically increase access to healthy affordable meals in the US,” she added.

A nine member committee, which included parents, vetted the three proposals. As part of the process, about 2,000 students participated in taste tests this spring.

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Revolution Foods currently serves 2 million meals a week to more than 22 school districts throughout the United States, including San Francisco; Austin, Texas; Newark; Washington, D.C.; and Philadelphia.

It also serves more than 15,000 meals a day at 25 school campuses throughout Massachusetts.

James Vaznis can be reached at james.vaznis@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globevaznis.