More and more students of D.C. Public Schools are eating school-served meals. The uptick comes as the system looks to move away from a food-services provider that has been criticized in recent years for poor meal quality and high costs.

An annual report filed to the D.C. Council’s Committee on Education, which oversees the schools, shows that in the past three fiscal years, students’ meal-participation rates have steadily increased. “Our meal participation rates continue to climb, and we are currently almost 200,000 meals over FY15 performance at this point in SY15-16 (January 2016),” DCPS reports. “FY15 performance yielded 480,000 additional meals over FY13.”

Meals at DCPS facilities are currently furnished by a trio of vendors: Chartwells (the subject of a Washington City Paper investigation), DC Central Kitchen, and Revolution Foods. The meals they served from Oct. 1, 2014 to Sept. 30, 2015 are organized by category and cost-to-student below.

Fiscal year 2016 is the first in which DCPS is mandating “satisfaction plans” to evaluate vendor performance. These will include student surveys, more sampling and taste testing, and additional nutrition and cooking classes, according to the oversight report.

Last July, Chartwells attempted to quit its contract for the 2015-16 academic year amid criticism over its procurement process and inventory management, but clarified that it would continue serving DCPS schools until a new provider was found. DCPS put out a request for proposals in December “to develop a new food service contract with one or more new food service providers for school year 2016-2017.” New vendors are expected to be chosen this spring.

In the meantime, Chartwells says it has begun implementing a series of “action items” to improve its performance this year, including training for leadership and new hires, revised menus, and catering community events, per the report.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery; screenshots via DCPS report to D.C. Council

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