Holmes School Board members discusses concerns with student food vendor services

The quality of food services rendered for students at Holmes County schools and whether the school district should go back to handling those services themselves was discussed during a School Board meeting on Feb. 27.

Sodexo is the current food service vendor and is in its first year of a contract with Holmes District. School Board members and Superintendent Buddy Brown have raised concerns with aspects of the service so far, including the quality of the food and a “communication breakdown.”

“We’re seeing some positives. There’s certainly some negatives,” Brown said. “Some of the meals we have seen presented are not suitable. … We agree the quality of the food has to improve.”

Students also reportedly haven’t gotten enough food to eat or not liked some of the food offerings. No official decision on the food service contract or plans were made at the Feb. 27 meeting and the matter is expected to be discussed further by the School Board. 

Sodexo representatives attended the Feb. 13 School Board meeting to hear and answer concerns. 

In a prepared statement, Sodexo said they are “proud to serve the Holmes County School District, leveraging a partnership rooted in collaboration, communication, and continuous improvement.”

“In acknowledgment of the matters raised on the 13th, any concerns have been duly recognized. Our team is currently prioritizing feedback with a sense of urgency, underscoring our commitment to ensuring optimal service delivery,” Sodexo said. “Concerning the initiation of the food service program during its initial year Sodexo has made significant progress, resulting in positive impacts on our operations. This achievement has been made possible through the steadfast support of the Holmes School District.”

Sodexo did agree in the contract for this year for us to keep our local milk distributor, which we had already had a bid on,” District Administrator Carmen Bush said. 

“That has been an issue for Sodexo because of the cost of milk. Sodexo is paying 38 cents per milk in Holmes County. They’re paying 29 cents for milk in Jackson County,” Bush said.

Holmes District is in the black for food services, which School Board Chair Wilburn Baker said he would like to see “all the time.” 

Holmes District returning to handling food services themselves would cost more than it does under contracting with Sodexo, Bush said. 

“For it to be the first year of implementation, I feel like they’re tracking for everybody to get more comfortable with it,” Bush said. “When I talk to all the managers, they said it’s been a very sharp learning curve for them and that it has taken a lot of their time but that they are getting the hang of it.”

Baker said he did not understand why the food was inconsistent. 

Ways to address concerns mentioned include Bush going out into the schools more herself or tapping other district staff members to handle the matter. Having a floater person who goes to the schools on a rotating and as-needed basis was also brought up.

“I think they do (want to say in Holmes County),” Bush said. “They’ve emailed me and wanted to know what can we do to make the partnership better?”

Sodexo’s contract goes through June 30. 

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