After two rounds of voting, SUNY New Paltz’s Campus Auxiliary Services (CAS) Board chose to renew Sodexo as the food service provider on campus for the next five years.
During their rescheduled meeting on Wednesday, April 10, members of the CAS Board voted in favor of choosing Sodexo’s proposal over those presented by contractors Aramark and Chartwells by a count of 6 to 4. The vote came after Aramark and Sodexo tied in an earlier round of voting.
Both members of the board itself and students on campus had mixed feelings about the decision to renew the incumbent service provider, but shared hope in the possibility of strengthening their relationship in the future.
“Based on the proposals, Sodexo has worked with us in the past on sustainability and workers’ rights, so we hope that we can continue to improve that,” Student Association President and Vice Chair of CAS Board Josh Simpson said after the vote. “Though, all I can say is I am happy I am involved in writing the final contract – it sort of became picking the less evil of the three choices.”
CAS Executive Director Steve Deutsch said at the meeting that he conducted multiple interviews with his peers at comparable schools who currently have the three companies providing food to their campuses.
Deutsch said he received mostly negative reviews of Chartwells from schools like SUNY Albany and SUNY Plattsburgh. Aramark had positive feedback from the University of Hartford and the College of St. Rose, and Sodexo received praise from Marist.
The three competing companies visited SUNY New Paltz last month, each offering proposals about how they would provide food on campus. Afterward, members of the board were asked to rate their proposals.
After tallying the feedback from board members, Aramark received the highest positive feedback with a 95 percent favorability score, Sodexo was second with 90 percent and Chartwells finished last with 82 percent.
Despite the high favorability ratings, students had uneasy feelings about the end result.
“The reason we were pushing for Sodexo was we wanted to pick the less of three evils,” Student Senator Annemarie Courtens said. “Just because we have Sodexo now doesn’t mean we will have the same service going forward, we are pushing for a lot of things.”
Courtens said because Sodexo had a recently ratified worker’s rights contract and was more willing to listen to student demands in recent months, many students swung their favor in keeping the current provider and working to continue the strides they have made.
“Cheering for Sodexo is not something I want to do,” Courtens said. “All three of the companies were basically the same shirts with different labels on them. No one has experience working with Aramark, but we got our foot in the door with Sodexo and we hope to continue working with that.”
Courtens said Sodexo was open to introducing the Real Food Challenge on campus, which was something that many students hope to see implemented.
The Challenge, which pledges to improve “our nation’s food system to prevent adverse health, social, economic and ecological outcomes,” contains a list of commitments participating groups hope to see and the best practices for doing so.
Now that the CAS Board has voted on their recommendation, Deutsch will take the choice to President Donald Christian and work with a subcommittee comprised of a faculty member, staff member, students and union representatives to work on the wording of a contract that will be sent to Sodexo.
Simpson said he was adamant about being part of the committee and hopes to ensure that the issues brought up by the approximately 30 students who attended the meeting and the various others involved in the process, are addressed.
Despite this, Simpson said while Sodexo has been chosen as the prospective food service provider, the student body’s work is “not done.”
“This contract is for five years,” Simpson said. “I hope that people won’t lose interest in this like so many other things on this campus. People tend to get up in arms over things and I would hate to see that happen again after such a strong push.”