Boston schools renew Whitsons contract

The management company promises changes following a scathing external report.

BOSTON—Boston public school students will enjoy more locally sourced food, participate in quarterly taste tests, and receive a greater say in planning menus as part of a $12.2 million a year food-service contract revealed Tuesday.

Under the deal with Whitsons Culinary Group, the school system will also resume a pilot salad bar project at six schools, said Sam DePina, chief operating officer for student support. The district had faced criticism from parents and staff after shutting down the program last school year.

“We want to make sure they’re getting the healthiest possible food,” DePina said. “We always knew there was a demand for more local options and salads.”

The contract with New York-based Whitsons, which has been the district’s meals provider for the past three school years, was announced months after a scathing external report commissioned by the School Department revealed widespread dysfunction in the food service program.

According to the review, the program had lost more than $21 million over the past eight years, and some employees complained of a hostile work environment. Whitsons had nothing to do with the issues highlighted in the report, school officials say.