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Lee school board to discuss bids for food products for district; Three companies show offers for consideration

By Staff | Sep 23, 2008

Tonight the Lee County School Board will consider approving a peculiar bid to purchase food products from two companies specializing in the distribution of coffee.

The school board will make a decision whether to approve a $250,000 bid for food products from three different companies, two of which are primarily coffee suppliers. If approved, the bid would last for one year beginning today.

According to the district, 25 vendors were invited to bid and only three decided to participate.

Wayne Nagy, food services director for the district, said the bid order includes 18 pages of miscellaneous items that the district did not purchase in bulk, such as cooking spices. The 18-page document was unavailable for review Monday.

Lee County and 38 school districts statewide belong to a program called “Power Buying” where food is purchased in bulk, Nagy explained. But sometimes certain products are cheaper locally so the district sends out subsequent bids.

“It makes sure we are getting the best buy and, secondly, allows us to buy items that may not be on the master’s list,” he said.

Nagy explained that the district will spend $12 million for food this year, and that officials always try to find the best deal.

He added that even though the agenda item is asking for $250,000, not all of it will necessarily be spent, but whatever amount they do take can be used to purchase local items much cheaper.

“Sometimes those are specialty items that are less expensive locally,” said Nagy.

Interstate Gourmet Coffee Roasters, a gourmet coffee company based out of South Easton, Mass.; School Food Services System in Opa Locka, Fla.; and Stan’s Coffee Service, a Lehigh Acres company and part of P & L Foods, responded to the bid.

Interstate Gourmet Coffee Roasters is headquartered in South Easton along with Boston’s Best Coffee Roasters, Gold Star Coffee and David’s Gourmet. Furthermore, two of these coffee vendors are partnered in the same facility at 43 Norfolk Ave. in South Easton.

Boston’s Best sells items such as wholesale hot cocoa, cappuccino, frozen drinks, tea, java blast energy coffee, as well as gourmet coffee flavors such as amaretto, banana hazelnut and butterscotch creme.

Stan’s Coffee Service in Lehigh Acres advertises a “complete selection of coffee products to satisfy everyone’s coffee desires,” and distributes brands such as Maxwell House and Lavazza — an Italian expresso company. It also partners with Sara Lee, Gold Medal, Kellogg’s and more.

An employee from Stan’s Coffee Service said the order to Lee Schools consisted mainly of dry groceries.

The company’s Web site, “http://www.stanscoffee.com”>www.stanscoffee.com, features a link to “dry grocery items” which leads to a home page for American Standard — a leading North American manufacturer of bath and kitchen products such as fixtures and furniture.

The employee added that he was not sure if that was the company’s Web site or not. Also, the sales manager could not be reached for comment Monday.

Barry Gray, a representative from School Food Services System, said the Lee County schools’ order consists of dry groceries including canned peaches, pears, spices and salt. He said the bid did not include coffee.

In the Power Buying program, the prices are more apt to change depending on the market, said Gray, while the bid with School Food Services System is at a fixed price.

A lot of items in the Power Buying are market pricing, with this bid you are locked into one price,” said Gray.

While the district is going to decide whether to spend $250,000 purchasing products from two coffee vendors, teachers in the county are not provided with coffee free-of-charge.

Also, other school districts stated that food service budgets do not set aside money for specialty coffee products.

Officials from the Palm Beach County School District, which has 168,342 students and 21,718 employees, said these products are not included in their purchases.

No, we don’t budget any money for coffee. If an employee wants coffee they are to purchase their own,” said Doreen Booth-Goodwin, an employee of Palm Beach County food service’s department. “They don’t even supply coffee for the teachers in the cafeteria.”

The bid amount of $250,000 equates to approximately seven full-time teacher positions — with a starting salary of $38,000. Other positions, such as the board auditor position vacated at the end of 2007, carries a price tag of $100,000.

Last week the district had 17 teachers on the surplus list who could possibly lose their jobs if there was a decrease in October student enrollment numbers.