AT ISSUE: What should be done to improve food service on campus? Students are asking for more choices on campus. How can students who eat kosher, halal, vegan and vegetarian food best be served? How should students be involved?
First get rid of monopolistic contracts
It’s unbelievable that Aramark mints money off resident students via mandatory meal plans. Even Starbucks wants to open a third – yes, a third – cafe, this time in the M.D. Anderson Library. Let’s not forget that the only beverages we can buy are Coca Cola products.
It seems corporations see the University as a gathering of exploitable cattle. We foot the bill for outlandishly expensive books and which Barnes and Noble usually refuses to buy back – another monopolistic contract – and we pay for parking which is a pain in the neck and all kinds of fees tacked onto our bills. Poor service is being forced upon us at every end. Must we also suffer the terrible food choice?
Where are the vegetarian choices, other than a weak veggie wrap at Subway? Would you prefer cheese pizza from the Pizza Hut at the University Center Satellite or cheese pizza from the Pizza Hut near the Campus Wellness and Recreation Center, or the one nearer to Bauer College of Business? Or you can go drown yourself in the cheese leaking from the healthy Taco Bell burritos – because that’s all vegetarians eat, right?
This is why I go to the China Star across the street from Melcher Hall. It’s independently owned and managed by a very nice lady. It has a wide selection, including multiple vegetarian dishes. The portions are large, delicious and affordable. We can make change by giving our business to them once in a while.
Improvements possible, but prices could rise
To improve food on campus the first thing that needs to happen is the breaking of the mandatory meal plan requirement for students living on campus.
As long as Aramark has a steady flow of cash that is not directly connected to good quality or service there is less of an incentive to change and adapt. The mandatory Cougar Cash plans are a marginal improvement but still foster an incentive structure that is not inclined to promote customer service.
In looking to suit the food needs of a diverse campus, Aramark has to tread lightly. It is critical that Aramark find methods of providing foods to diverse groups that can be self-sustaining.
If Aramark rushes and provides a full lineup of different options, the demand would be enough to cover cost, so it could increase prices of all food products across the board to help subsidize the loss.
Students interested in a particular food need to make their opinions heard. This can serve as a great opportunity for student organizations, such as the Student Government Association and the Council of Ethnic Organizations, to conduct research in how much demand for which type of new food lineup would be best at UH.
Aramark could try to provide different meals on temporary bases to gauge student reaction. One hopes we will see a more diverse food lineup during our stay at UH.
Aramark is to blame
One of the best ways to handle food service is to keep the entire set of campus eateries open from at least 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. with later hours in the dorms so residents may continue to eat. Furthermore, we need more made-to-order meal stations such as the pasta and rice stations at the dorms, where students can customize their meals to their own tastes.†
As for the question of religious dietary restrictions, kosher and Halal meats should be available at all times, and care should be taken to advertise which meat choices satisfy those requirements. A variety of hot vegan plates should also be available, particularly in the dorms. In fact, vegan options were promised to the University when Aramark made its bid to become the campus’ food-service provider. The fact that they were discontinued is a matter of concern, one that could possibly be construed as false advertising on Aramark’s part.†
Lastly, Aramark needs to pay its employees more livable wages. I hear horror stories of forced overtime and low pay from food-service workers here on campus, and the poor morale on the part of the cooking staff has become evident. The wages they pay aren’t even appropriate for work/study students, who generally aren’t even the ones handling food. Perhaps it would not be so difficult to attract and maintain talented employees if said†personnel†were properly paid and if unionization was not treated with hostility by management.