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Wilmington City Council is keeping the same provider for its nutrition programs

Quinn Kirkpatrick
Delaware Public Media

Wilmington City Council begrudgingly passes an ordinance to extend the contract for the food service provider for the City’s nutrition programs.

The City of Wilmington is combining their Summer Food Service Program and Adult and Child Care Food Service Program this year.

The newly titled Combined Food Service Programsprovides year-round meals to children in Wilmington outside of school hours.

Council awarded the contract to Whitsons Food Service (Bronx), LLC - the same food provider from the previous year.

Council Member Al Mills’ ordinance, on behalf of the Purzycki Administration, authorizes and approves the possibility of two extensions of one year on the same terms and conditions of the nearly $1.5 million contract.

The goal is to avoid having to go out to bid again each year, which could potentially lead to a pause in the program. It also avoids price increases.

But some council members - including Xanthia Oliver - questioned why there wasn’t more effort to award the contract to a local business.

“I’m not going to vote against it, but I think it’s unfortunate that we have all of these small businesses in Wilmington and the chance for economic development. Yet we’re giving out all of this money and we can’t find individuals from here,” said Oliver.

Council Member Latisha Bracy says it comes down to capacity.

“The problem with going with a local company is capacity. Because every day the provider must serve the entire city,” she said.

Bracy adds now is the time to discuss building local capacity so that the contract could go to a company within the city in the future.

Oliver and Council Member Maria Cabrera made note of several local businesses that could potentially handle the burden of providing food to a large number of people each day, including the Wilmington Kitchen Collective.

The ordinance passed with 10 yes and only 1 no - coming from Council President Trippi Congo.

He says there needs to be pressure put on the administration to increase support for small businesses - noting that council’s focus needs to be centered on supporting Wilmingtonians.

“Even through this discussion it’s obvious that there could be people or groups that have the capacity to make this happen,” said Congo. “This is a lot of money that we could keep for people we know of, people who support us, and people who would reinvest in our city. So I’m not going to support it. I think at some point we just have to take a stand.”

Council Members Yolanda McCoy and Michelle Harlee both expressed concern over the quality of Whitsons’ service in the past.

“I’m just going to ask that Council Member Mills maybe work with Director Smith to make sure that we’re monitoring what’s happening with these meals that are going to be given to our children,” said Harlee.

Mills readily agreed to work with Wilmington Parks and Recreation Director Ian Smith to help monitor the program’s quality as it progresses.

Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, and graduated from the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021.