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Free CPS meals to continue through the summer — with $29M more to Aramark

The contract renewal with the Philadelphia-based Aramark is a one-year, $126 million extension of the usual food services provided to CPS, plus an expanded summer program.

Edith Quinones, the lunchroom manager, packs a bag of three days of free breakfast and lunch meals for students at William P. Nixon Elementary School, 2121 N. Keeler Ave., March 19, 2020.
Edith Quinones, the lunchroom manager, packs a bag of three days of free breakfast and lunch meals for students at William P. Nixon Elementary School, 2121 N. Keeler Ave., March 19, 2020.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file photo

Families who need food for their children will still be able to pick up meals at schools over the summer, Chicago Public Schools officials said Wednesday.

The city’s school board, at its monthly meeting held virtually for the third consecutive month, renewed its food services contract with private vendor Aramark for $126 million — $29 million more than previous years to account for an expanded summer program.

The district has distributed more than 12.5 million meals at hundreds of schools since in-person instruction ended more than two months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.

CPS CEO Janice Jackson said the need to keep feeding kids won’t diminish over the summer.

“In prior years we operated a program called ‘LunchStop,’ which fed students at approximately 100 sites throughout the city,” Jackson told the school board. “Given the COVID crisis, we know that the need is much greater. And so today we’re going to be asking the board to approve a plan that allows us to continue serving food with our partner Aramark over the summer.”

CPS officials said almost all students live within a mile of one of the district’s 640 schools that are currently offering meals. Three-quarters of those sites are on the South and West Sides, where the need for food has shown to be greater. A full list of summer sites will be available at cps.edu/mealsites.

The contract renewal with the Philadelphia-based Aramark is a one-year extension of the usual food services provided to CPS, including for food and overseeing lunchroom staff. The original $97 million agreement was signed for the 2018-19 school year with four options for one-year extensions.

The district also renewed a cleaning contract with Aramark for another year after announcing last week that once the extension ends in June 2021, the district will terminate the much maligned, years-long deal that had been worth hundreds of millions for the private company.