By Zachary Sylvester, Staff Writer
After reviewing proposals to replace the current on-campus dining service, The University of Maine System has awarded the new contract to the $26 billion French company, Sodexo, which has pledged to obtain at least 20% of food locally. Sodexo will be replacing the current dining service, Aramark, which has been held in mixed opinion by campus residents.
Junior Gabrielle Ganiere has been eating Aramark food at the dining hall for three years now. “It’s literally empty calories,” Ganiere said. “It’s just to hold me over until something else.” Ganiere noted that it was better in her freshman and sophomore years, but that this year, options have been severely limited.
Many other students share Ganiere’s opinion. Sophomore Juan Agramonte also noted Aramark’s recent lack of food choices. Agramonte enjoys Aramark food more than Ganiere, however. “It’s good on a good day,” he said.
More appreciative of their services, senior Tim Bushika defended Aramark food. “I think it just gets a bad rap,” he said. “It depends on what you get, when.” Bushika acknowledged the sparser food choices this academic year, but argues that the quality has increased. “[The] past semester or two it’s been better,” he said.
Sodexo was given the food service contract after an evaluation period during which proposals from other dining service providers were considered. Sodexo was chosen due to its pledge to meet and exceed the University of Maine System’s 20% local food use goal, a goal that is appealing to most UMF students.
“I’m super excited about [locally sourced food],” Ganiere said. The local cuisine may pique the interest of UMF students, but it would all be for nothing if the flavor is sub-Aramark. Fresher, locally sourced ingredients will likely lead to better tasting food, but this is not certain. Ganiere believes that locally sourced ingredients may be accompanied by leaner dining options, due to the limited variety of local produce. “They might have fewer selections with locally sourced ingredients” Ganiere said.
Obtaining local ingredients may be beneficial to more than just the students. The food will be purchased from Maine farms, increasing their revenue. There are seven UMS campuses spread throughout Maine, and multiple farms will be required to meet the ingredient requirement. This will benefit farmers, possibly allowing some to expand their businesses.
The switch to Sodexo will not only be applied at UMF, but across the entire UMS system schools.