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The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

Three Years, Three Companies: WIS’s Tumultuous Relationship with Food Providers

A CulinArt pasta meal. Over the past three years, WIS has switched food providers three times: from Sodexo to Brock to the latest provider, CulinArt. (Courtesy of CulinArt Eating)

An email announcing a new food provider would replace Brock entered WIS students’ inboxes before winter break. The company, CulinArt, promised “innovative dining solutions to help students eat and live well.” 

A couple of months into CulinArt’s time at WIS, students and staff have adjusted to the changes the company brought with it, but one question remains: Why has WIS switched food providers so frequently in the past few years? 

Like Goldilocks, WIS is searching for a food provider that is “just right.” The story starts in 2018, when WIS underwent a thorough proposal process as part of a routine check-in that’s common when a company has worked with you for a long time. Sodexo had worked with WIS since 2007, so a trial was long overdue. 

Students taste-tested the food that different food providers offered and voted on which they liked the most. Amongst these were Brock, a company called Flick, and Sodexo.  

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Chief Financial Officer Bethany Neumann oversaw the process since choosing, managing and organizing WIS’s food services falls under her jurisdiction. “[This process] helps ensure that your vendors are still providing the services that you really want at the school,” Neumann said. “It also helps you ensure that the fees that they’re charging are competitive.  

 Brock ultimately replaced Sodexo after the process ended, but its time at WIS would be brief. 

During the original search process in 2018, Neumann explained that WIS was between Brock and another company named Flick. CulinArt and Flick are both a part of a larger company called Compass. When WIS decided it was time to switch food providers again, instead of hosting a whole new group of caterers, they used the research and surveys previously conducted and immediately reached out to CulinArt, according to Neumann. 

Neumann highlighted the benefits of CulinArt over Brock. Even though CulinArt and Brock are both small businesses, one of CulinArt’s advantages is that Compass, a bigger company with more power backs them up. “[By] having a big company backing up CulinArt… they can help with things like purchasing and [providing] resources,” Neumann said.

CulinArt describes itself as “a food-first company with a strong focus on health and wellness,” and seemed like the perfect match for WIS because the school was hoping “to increase the variety of the food offerings, provide more selection in the cafe and improve the delivery process at primary school,” according to Neumann. 

Unlike other food providers that offer prearranged and set programs, CulinArt tailors their food services to best accommodate each individual institution. Neumann emphasized CulinArt’s flexibility as an especially significant factor in picking it for WIS, since most all-inclusive deals do not work due to the limited size and unique shape of the Tregaron and Primary School food facilities.

This flexibility is not only visible in the way they adjust to a smaller space, but also in the recipes they bring. Across grade levels, students agreed that the change in food providers came with its benefits and disadvantages. 

“I think it looks more edible, and [that compared to Brock] when you bite into it you don’t think you’re going to die,” freshman Zoya Zwart said. She added that CulinArt is not wasteful and serves adequate portion sizes. 

Her comment was especially meaningful given that complaints about Brock throughout its time at WIS surrounded the size of their portions and wastefulness of their packaging, proving that CulinArt made valuable improvements to the school’s lunch program. In fact, complaints about meager lunch portions all but disappeared upon returning from winter break. 

CulinArt is also living up to its promise to encourage healthy eating. “You can see that it is actually organic and real products and not something that is chemicals,” seventh grader Finn Franusic Dauphin said.

In the IB café, opinions about the changes are also overwhelmingly positive as CulinArt provided more variety. “Now, there’s a lot of new stuff like the danishes [and] the apple muffins,” Junior Alessandro Ricci said. Other new café options include English muffins and packaged snacks, which rising juniors can look forward to enjoying. 

In spite of the positive feedback CulinArt has received, it’s clear they still have things to learn as they adjust to WIS. Freshman Jennifer Firschein enthusiastically agreed that the change was overall better, however, she also added that “[Brock] used to have a better paying system… [the long lines are] a good way to get sick [from COVID].” 

As CulinArt’s time at WIS progresses, it will be important to take note of whether their methods and systems change to meet the students’ and faculty’s changing demands. If they do, then maybe, just maybe, it will seem that WIS has found their Goldilocks zone.

By Sofia Vakis

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