MSA seeks self-operated dining service

MSA gives recommendations for university dining services, on-campus grocery store and more.

Jeff McKinley, resident district manager for the Universitys food supplier Aramark, fields questions from MSA representatives about the Universitys dining contract during forum in Frasier 102 on Tuesday.

Maddy Fox

Jeff McKinley, resident district manager for the University’s food supplier Aramark, fields questions from MSA representatives about the University’s dining contract during forum in Frasier 102 on Tuesday.

Maraya King

Instead of suggesting a new dining vendor at the University of Minnesota as the current contract approaches expiration, the Minnesota Student Association is pushing for a self-operated dining service.

Along with the dining service suggestion, MSA discussed nutrition, sustainability and dietary restrictions Tuesday afternoon at the first student government forum of the semester. 

The current contract with food supplier Aramark, which was renewed in 2008 and began in 1998, expires in 2020. Previous to that, the University managed its own food services. 

At the forum, MSA recommended the University operate their dining services and cater them specifically to the student body.

The University is the only publicly-owned university within the Big Ten to have a contract with an outside vendor.

University administration will make the final decision on how dining services will operate. Regardless of the outcome, administration will consider an MSA report recommending dining hall changes.

Along with the recommendations, MSA’s dining subcommittee also outlined areas that could be improved within the new dining contract. 

Suggested improvements include extending dining hall hours, offering higher quality fresh produce and allocating spending efforts to more sustainable resources. 

In addition to these potential improvements, MSA proposed an on-campus grocery store. 

“The construction of a grocery store will alleviate the lack of affordable and fresh grocery store options on and near campus and open up a new channel of potentially lucrative revenue,” said a report submitted by the dining subcommittee. 

MSA has been working with environmentally-conscious student groups since fall semester to identify top priorities when it comes to dining advocacy, said Will Macheel, director of MSA’s sustainability committee. 

The sustainability committee reached out to students who have varying perspectives and backgrounds to ask what they wanted in the future of campus dining, Macheel said. 

Along with student groups, the sustainability committee was in contact with students from the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. 

CFANS student senator Dominic Christensen said he and his colleagues reached out to local farmers to discuss issues like GMOs and rBST — a hormone produced by cows — when it comes to campus dining. 

A portion of the recommendations were based on a set of standards adopted from the Real Food Challenge, an organization started by college students. 

“The purpose is to shift some of the purchasing power towards more sustainable and ethical food sources,” said Elayna Shapiro, president of U Students Like Good Food. 

Many schools across the country are adopting the standards set by the Real Food Challenge to ensure quality options for their students, Christensen said.

“The hope is that whoever ends up in charge of dining halls on campus … will use these sustainability and dietary recommendations that we have put together,” Shapiro said.