By Molly Reed, Staff Writer   

Screen Shot 2012-11-06 at 6.46.26 PM.png

(on the left) A picture of a burger from the
Aramark website
(Courtesy of http://www.campusdish.com/enUS/CSNE/UnivMaineFarmington/Locations/)

(on the right)

A burger from the dining hall. This burger
was made by an employee and available for
students at the grill.
(Photo by Molly Reed)

UMF students have differing views on Aramark food. Matt Noyes, who has been working as the district manager for Aramark for 14 years, believes the food selection is adequate for erudite individuals.

    In Noyes’ opinion, students may not make good food choices because they are uneducated on eating healthy or because it is their first time living away from home. “They don’t seem to be educated on how to maneuver or make their dining selections,” said Noyes, “I think sometimes when you get to make your own choices for the first time, you tend to make bad decisions, when you’re young and just out of the house, you don’t necessarily tend to flock to the full blown salad bar,” he said.

    Psychology major Emily Marron believes that students do know how to make healthy food choices and simply are not provided with any. “I think we are old enough to make choices and if people choose the unhealthy options than they really shouldn’t be complaining,” she said. “But the people who want to make healthy choices, they really can’t at Aramark.”

   Kelsey O’Connor is now living in an off-campus apartment because she couldn’t wait to make her own food. “If they changed their food, they would probably have more people keep meal plans and make a lot more money,” said O’Connor. “But, I feel like the only reason people keep meal plans is because it’s convenient not to make your food, not because they actually like the food they’re eating,” she said.

    Sebastien Dumont believes that Aramark plays a large role in the campus obesity issue. “You know how they’re always talking about how UMF is the fattest campus on the UMaine system? I think Aramark is responsible for that,” he said. “Because like you can eat pizza and get like some type of fried food every single day and that’s a standard. You don’t know that you could get a healthy hot meal every day that is actually appetizing,” he said.

    Patrick Anderson, director of UMF dining services for the past three years, was surprised to hear this feedback. “It was eye opening to me, it was like we provide omelet bar, salad bar, bagel bar, deli bar, hot entrees, yogurt and granola bar, fresh fruit bar, the waffle bar, eight kinds of cereal and four kinds of milk,” he said. “When you put it together like that’s really a lot of stuff,” he said.

     “They say that they have fresh fruit every day but usually if they have it, it’s only melon and sometimes I’ve gotten to breakfast and it’s all gone, already,” said Marron. “It’s a fairly small container that they put out for the amount of people going through the dining hall.”

    Dumont thinks that one factor that contributes to student dissatisfaction with Aramark is the nutritional value of the food. “I think that the nutritional value of the food is so low. Just using processed meat all the time, just running the dining hall like a corporation would run,” he said. “You don’t get enough vitamins from getting the food there, I began taking vitamins because I feared that the nutritional value of the food was not there.”

    “The produce comes in, we bring it out front, and we prep it. People can see it’s real stuff and not pre-processed,” said Anderson. “We don’t use chemicals or anything to process our stuff,” he said.

    Meal times are often the times when students can relax and catch up with each other.  “I feel like food builds a huge community and when we all get together with our friends is meals,” said Dumont. “If you feel like every time you go into a meal is going to be a bad experience then like you come out smelling like a dirty French fry, no one wants that,” he said.

    On UMFs dining services website, they provide a picture of a hamburger and French fries. Many students were alarmed to see Aramark advertising their food in such a way.

    “I think they definitely look better on the website, especially on the burger, that’s not at all what it looks like,” said UMF student Kelsey Redmond, “to try and make it appealing so that people want to buy it but I feel like a lot of people have no choice like they have to eat so they go to Aramark anyway.”

    “I think we obviously all know that the food is not up to any type of standard and that the fact that they would even have pictures like that on their website that would so misrepresent is kind of a joke,” said Dumont.

    Noyes said that the photo is a stock photo boilerplate. “They use boiler plate stuff as part of a marketing piece at places like McDonalds and Burger King,” he said.

    “They have awards and say it’s an award winning dining hall…please tell me who voted for that because I’m pretty sure that there is not one single person on this campus that thinks it’s award winning,” said O’Connor.

    “What are we missing? None of this told us what they’re looking for. What need are we not meeting? There are so many different diets, food allergies, it’s a lot different doing food service now than it was 10 or 5 years ago,” said Noyes.

    Anderson agreed that it’s difficult to know in what specific ways Aramark can improve. “It’s difficult to try to be everything to everybody,” he said.

    Both Anderson and Noyes are open to feedback from students. “Aramark tries to always have an open door policy, we try to be available for students. Come tell us what we’re missing, we want to hear where we’re not making the mark so that we can adjust stuff,” said Noyes.

    Students who are interested may be able to tour the kitchen. “If you had a core group that wanted to do a tour of the kitchen and walk through production, we have no problem setting up a time and doing a tour and a Q and A,” said Noyes. “We’re not by any means the people hiding out back. We want to be as open as we can. It’s your dining room, morning, noon and night,” he said.

    Every quarter Aramark hosts focus groups for students to give feedback to Aramark. “The bigger the turnout, the better,” said Noyes. “We give $10 or $15 just for your time and participating,” he said.