Those who complain about campus food will be unhappy to hear that Monday afternoon’s public presentation was the final step in ensuring another decade of Sodexo at Binghamton University. The formal contract will be effective as of June 1, 2015.
Students, faculty and representatives from Sodexo gathered in Old Union Hall to discuss the contract that would guarantee Sodexo as BU’s food provider through 2025. Sodexo was the only vendor to respond to the bid. Though other corporations such as American Food & Vending and Gourmet Foods initially showed interest, they never officially applied. Sodexo has provided food for Binghamton University for the past 30 years.
Pete Napolitano, the director of auxiliary services on campus, said that it is important that this decision is something that involves not only the school’s administration.
“As a client, we have client expectations,” Napolitano said. “The important thing is [that] this isn’t an administrative decision; we involve students and that’s part of where we’re going today, that’s what this proposal is about. Sodexo is reinventing themselves, reflective of what the students want.”
There were tables with food samples and posters explaining the proposed plan for the next 10 years. Changes include a global chef program, which will bring in a visiting chef from a different country each semester, and a makeover for the College-in-the-Woods dining hall.
According to Jim Ruoff, the general manager of Sodexo Dining Services at BU, Sodexo also plans to add new food locations to campus, including Dunkin’ Donuts in the Old Union, and an additional Starbucks and a Subway, both in the lower floor of the Hinman dining hall.
The presentation included a question-and-answer session, where attendees asked questions on costs of new healthy eating initiatives that will bring more organic and allergen-free options to campus, pricing for new food vendors and nutritional information for dining hall food.
Several students also questioned labor standards at the dining halls and for contractors, like Coca-Cola, that Sodexo hires to provide certain products. Company representatives said that they followed all labor laws and required that any companies who signed contracts with them to do the same.
Donnie Graham, a senior double-majoring in Chinese and environmental studies, said that it is important for students to take advantage of opportunities like this to make their voices heard.
“Every student feels like they don’t have any power at all and they’re just floating along with the corporate whim,” Graham said. “This gives us the chance for them to actually hear our voice, and there’s not many opportunities like this.”
Ruoff said that Sodexo has done its part, and now it is time for the community to decide on finalizing the contract.
“We told a story and now it’s up to the community to figure out how we’re going to move forward with it,” Ruoff said. “I think it’s important that everybody has the opportunity to hear the story we’re proposing so they can get their own thoughts, and help mold how its going to finish.”
According to Ella Schwarzbaum, a senior majoring in environmental studies, Sodexo’s future plans sound promising as long as they follow through with their goals.
“It sounded good,” Schwarzbaum said. “It’s much easier to sound good than to definitely be good. They have a lot of good initiatives and really good ideas but I think its important to also stay on top of it and make sure that it’s coming to fruition.”