Negotiating for a better lunch

The University is currently working to renew its food service contract.

During the month of March, an advisory committee will issue recommendations to the Board of Regents regarding the renewal of the University-wide food services contract held by Aramark for the last decade. Whether the University decides to renew with Aramark or consider negotiations with other companies, the contract renewal should be a process that deeply considers University Dining Services practices today and the realization of future goals.

The current Aramark contract began in 1998, after huge annual losses under the University-run food service.

Looking back over the past 10 years of UDS under Aramark, there have been some positive changes: Last spring, all UDS locations went cage-free, fair-trade coffee is now widely available, organic foods have taken over some shelves at convenience markets, some nonrecyclable food packaging has been replaced with recyclable products, a composting program has been implemented at Coffman Union and improvements have been made in the amount of local and sustainable food that is being served. While there are often complaints that it is difficult to negotiate changes with Aramark, these improvements attest that with enough persistence, practices can be changed.

There are still, however, many areas in which University food service should be improved, and these needs deserve attention from the advisory committee and Board of Regents during the contract renewal process. All coffee served at UDS locations should be fair-trade certified. More food should come from local and sustainable farms. Students eating at Coffman or the St. Paul Student Center should be able to use real plates and silverware – imagine the waste that could be saved by not putting everything in a toss-away container. There need to be more affordable options – bananas that cost less than a dollar per pound at the grocery store are a dollar each on campus. There also needs to be more options for healthy, organic, vegetarian and vegan diets.

Those who are at the University fulltime are bound to the choices and prices offered on campus – the University must be proactive in securing affordable, sustainable and healthy options.