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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Campus

FSAC leads town hall on potential new food service contract


Smith introduced a series of new meal plans whose prices will be mutually agreed upon with the food service provider. | File Photo/The Cougar

As the sun sets on Aramark’s dominance of our campus, the bidding process for a new food service provider for the University begins.

Food Services Advisory Committee chair and former student body president Shane Smith led a town hall meeting Wednesday, where he presented the contract bidding process and requirements the new food service provider will have to meet, including upgraded meal plans, redesigned meal stations, late night hours at on-campus dining halls and expanded food options.

“Anytime you don’t have an incentive to continue to improve, you can get complacent,” Smith said.

The meal plans currently in place — a major point of contention between Aramark and the University — have been criticized for being too expensive and not cost-effective for students obligated to buy them.

The Anytime 24/7 meal plans are designed for on-campus students to have round-the-clock access, with Silver, Gold and Platinum plans varying by the amount of Cougar Cash and guest day passes it comes with. Smith introduced several block plans, as well as a potential 24/5 meal plan for commuters.

A proposal for a meal equivalency program would allow plan holders one daily swipe at a pre-determined retailer, outside of the dining halls, with which to purchase a meal.

The financial health of dining services was also called into question at the meeting. Associate vice president for administration Emily Messa said the division was the only one of the auxiliary services losing money, and that a new contract, and possibly a new food service provider, would hopefully bring Dining back to profitability.

“As we’re developing meal plans, it’s a good time to talk about financial performance,” Messa said. “You saw our financial situation, and it’s certainly not a healthy financial situation.”

The interactive town hall used text polling to gauge the consensus of the dozen or so attendees on several questions about meal plan choices, proposed contract clauses and new retailer options.

After the meal plans were introduced, it was found that 57 percent of voters in attendance approved of the meal plans, 29 percent were neutral and 14 percent strongly agreed.

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