Through a carefully worked food policy established by Binghamton University, Binghamton University Dining Services (BUDS) has developed a monopoly on all cuisine-related aspects of food on campus. The justification for the strict food policy implemented is “to ensure that food is served to the Binghamton University community with a primary concern for safety,” according to the University’s website.
But this food policy mainly impacts multicultural organizations on campus, who want to provide authentic cultural food for events or as a method of fundraising. The food policy creates a tedious process in attempting to outsource food production to a business other than BUDS.
With few exceptions, all food must be provided by BUDS, and all cuisine-related requests are required, at the very least, to be presented to BUDS. As described by the food policy, “All food and beverages served on campus must be provided through BUDS, with limited exceptions, such as an event where food and beverage cost totals under $200, or in the case where specialty food or support of local establishments is in the best interest of the University.”
If an organization wants to cater food on campus that costs more than $200, they must pass the service request through BUDS, and BUDS can deny the request for the organization to be able to use an alternative provider. Even after BUDS rejects the contract, the organization and their chosen caterers must adhere to a strict protocol to make sure the food is securely prepped and delivered. A stated criterion is posted on the University food policy website, outlining that businesses must show proof of insurance and a business license. Additionally, there is a delivery requirement for businesses within a 75-mile radius of campus.
Organizations who want to use food as a method of fundraising also must comply with the rules, which state groups are only allowed to sell prepackaged foods and low-risk food items. This again sets a barrier for multicultural organizations who use the sale of cultural cuisines, such as pastelitos or mangu, as a source of revenue. When complying with the new policy, organizations are left selling items that may not make them a profit, or even allow them to cover the costs of the fundraiser. BU students on campus deserve to have access to something that is a profound part of their culture. Food is a method in which students of cultural communities reconnect with their distant communities.
Failure to follow these strict guidelines can have serious repercussions. As described in the policy, the highest penalty could be expulsion from the University. Organizations that violate the rules could see sanctions imposed on them. The policy states, “For students, this may include charges under the Code of Student Conduct and sanctions up to and including suspension or expulsion from the University.” There is clearly a desire by both BUDS and the University that students adhere to the guidelines presented by the food policy.
If we look at the food in the dining hall, there’s a vast array of cuisines from a multitude of cultures. However, all of this food is a westernized take on authentic ethnic cuisine, which is an integral pillar of many cultures. If a multicultural organization wants food that realistically represents food that comes from their culture, they can’t easily access it because of BU’s restrictive policies on food.
While there is a “simple” way around this process, it would be at the cost of a great inconvenience. An organization that is throwing an event could host the event off-campus, therefore out of BUDS’ jurisdiction. But this would remove the convenience that hosting an event on campus comes with, particularly for younger students, who live on campus and might have difficulty accessing an off-campus event. Unintentionally, the food policy has created a burden on all students who want to eat genuine ethnic food and on multicultural organizations that use food as a source of income.