After giving Sodexo an ultimatum to improve the quality of their food or face a three million dollar penalty, the university rescinded the contract, instead opting to restart a request for proposals (RFP) process that would allow food providers to explain why they should provide campus food at Fordham. The results are in: the university has decided to opt for food provider Aramark starting in July.
Responses on campus ranged from delight at Sodexo’s deposing to dismay that a provider with a less than stellar track record will be serving them omelettes in the Marketplace this fall. Fear that Fordham’s food service workers would lose their jobs was alleviated when Aramark revealed that they would extend their employment.
The editorial board of The Fordham Ram also applauds Aramark for choosing to retain Fordham’s workers in alignment with the university’s stated desires to do so. In doing so, the Ram-bound food service provider has not alienated the community that it is about to join, one that actively stood beside the workers since questions about their employment status during the RFP process first arose.
But what changes will Aramark actually make to the food scene at Fordham? This becomes the real question now that Fordham’s workers will be retained.
While we could not expect specifics in the initial email announcement from the Senior Vice President for Student Affairs about such a drastic change, we remain curious as to what “high standards in quality assurance and management” mean or how “performance monitoring of student satisfaction” will be carried out. Some members of the Fordham community have pointed out troubling information about Aramark that does not bode positively for the company.
Last year, ThinkProgress reported that Aramark fed the prisoners at the Michigan Saginaw Correctional Facility food that was previously thrown in the trash. In an email between Aramark’s General Manager, Sigfried Linder, and Michigan’s Department of Corrections, Linder said, “Mr. Chisolm discarded the left-overs from the line before the last half unit was in the chow hall.”
He then realized that there were more inmates to serve, so he rinsed them off, reheated them in the oven and instructed the inmates to serve them,” read one email. There have been several more instances of poor food quality in other state prisons served by Aramark.
Prisoners are not the only people who have revolted against Aramark. According to the Watertown Daily Times, nearly 700 students at Clarkson University signed an online petition asking the administration to sever the contract with Aramark. The petition stated, “Aramark does not care about the students they are feeding; Aramark is solely driven by their bottom line. Students received wilted, slimy, curtailed food and enough is enough.”
It is unclear if the university is simply exchanging one poor food service for another, but if our experiences are like those at Clarkson or Michigan Saginaw, it seems possible that food service providers are incapable of getting it right—or that student satisfaction will never be guaranteed. East Tennessee State University recently switched from Aramark to Sodexo due to the longer dining hall hours and varied food options that Sodexo’s proposal included, although the university’s statement did not say anything about dissatisfaction with Aramark’s services.
Sodexo was an obvious public relations nightmare for the university, and by disassociating itself with Sodexo, the university can start fresh—at least for now.
The editorial board feels that quick results are needed to satisfy the community and high dining standards must be obtained.
If not, opinions throughout the community might not be so kind come mid-fall semester.