The Lodi School Board approved the district’s plan to hire Taher, Inc. as the district’s new food service vendor. It came as Food Service Manager Paula Larrabee retired in December.

Business Manager Brent Richter said that in talks with Larrabee, she endorsed the concept of a management company taking over. Larrabee said that her days are centered around managing people, according to Richter. These companies bring in valued additions like kiosks, food carts, bringing kids in the kitchen and embrace the farm-to-table process.

“These things were Paula’s vision,” Richter said.

At its Feb. 8 meeting, the Board was in unanimous approval of the district’s decision.

The process, driven by the Department of Public Instruction, began with a 72-page request for proposal (RFP).

Richter said that five companies submitted bids to the district, which he and Breunig reviewed, then interviewed four companies. Even before Lodi could make an offer, DPI had to give its approval first. DPI said it could make an offer to Taher, who the district also chose as its top company.

The contract is for five years, but can be reviewed each year, according to Richter.

“They guaranteed us a return of $50,000 this year,” Richter said, adding that the district has had a decimated food service fund recently.

Board President H. Adam Steinberg added that the big difference with Taher, compared to other options is that hand-made food will be provided. Also menus that feature different ethnicities and cultures can also be represented.

Board member Steven Ricks added, “Their job is to make revenue for you, as well as them.”

Ricks said that if Taher finds out something doesn’t work with its menus, then take it away.

“In our effort to grow, Taher seemed like the best option,” Ricks said. “Our staff will still be there. They aren’t working for Taher. Taher has about 10-15 people who all they do is meet with the DPI and others about regulations, so that the person managing the school facility can do just that. Then the staff here can get to know the kids and figure out what the needs are.”

Dan Wolff, representing Taher, was in attendance online.

“We are family-owned, and we don’t answer to a Board of Directors or investors. We answer to the clients,” he said. “We’re not coming in because you guys did anything wrong. You had good leadership, and now it’s a good time to make a change.”

Taher will begin overseeing operations on March 1.

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