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Sodex-Go?

Glenn Rohrbacker

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Within the past week, there has been a petition circling over social media to remove the University of New Haven’s food service provider, Sodexo.

The petition states: “Since the dawn of its presence on our campus, Sodexo has provided inadequate, disproportioned food at an unfair price to University of New Haven students.”

This is the general and very basic complaint that students have expressed all over campus. The petition currently has 302 supporters out of a goal of 600, and has gained traction with the students of UNH via Facebook.

“In basically all places on campus, the food never changes. There’s no variety,” sophomore Psychology major Rob Bentivegna, a student who has signed the petition, said.

“The food is way overpriced,” junior Paul Lenahan said. “The food in the C-Store is almost three times more expensive than Shop Rite or Target. And none of it is healthy.”

These are just some of the complaints that have been shared between students amongst on campus. And it is because of these complaints that sophomore Ethan McGee decided to start an online petition looking to remove Sodexo from UNH.

“It was generally understood that people were upset with Sodexo, and the petition was a means where we could formally address it at school,” McGee said. He has been seeing a lot of issues that students have been having with the food service on campus and was looking to give them a voice.

“People, by their own volition, have left their comments and ideas on the petition page,” McGee said. “A lot of people complain about food poisoning and a lot of parents have complained about having to buy food for two houses.”

McGee expressed that there isn’t one specific goal for this petition. What he wants is for the students to be able to sit down and have this issue addressed by the school. Daniel Simpson, the student ambassador for Dining Services at UNH, approached McGee early on in this petition process to talk about the issues he was having with Sodexo. If a student is looking to voice his or her concerns as well, Simpson would be the person to contact.

George Hayes, General Manager of Sodexo at UNH, has been at UNH for only three months and has been actively adjusting the way Sodexo runs on this campus.

“A petition is nice, but it doesn’t really start a dialogue,” he said. “We are actually meeting with USGA to bring back the Food Committee, because we think with an active engagement we can learn about what their issues are.”
When asked about his initial reactions to the start of the petition, he delegated that right to the people it affects most: the students.

“We’re not perfect and we don’t pretend to be,” he said. “But we have been working on making improvements based on student comments.”

Sodexo representatives have been going to USGA meetings as well as residential halls to find out the concerns students are having with their dining options. Hayes himself also expressed his interest in finding out how to improve the dining services on campus to better serve the students.

“Having relative information that is constructive, that gives us the ability to go back and fix things,” he said. “A situation now where there is no dialogue, it’s hard to fix things because we don’t understand what’s bad.”

Hayes is open to criticism and suggestions. “Honestly I would be ready to [host a panel] right now. I’m not going to pretend we were blindsided, but we are interested to sit down at any time with students who want to start a dialogue,” he said.

Even though he has only been here for three months, Hayes estimates that when students were talking, Sodexo wasn’t listening hard enough or didn’t take it seriously enough. It also lacked a follow-up where the situation was rectified.

“There are different levels of reactions, but at least we can listen and then have an honest discussion of what we can change and what we can’t change,” he said.

This petition highlights an ongoing issues with Sodexo at UNH. When McGee created this petition, his main goal was to make the students and faculty aware of this growing problem, and he really wants it to be authentic.

“It should be students and parents and school members signing this. I don’t want random people signing the petition. I strongly discourage that,” McGee said.

He also expressed a willingness to work with Sodexo, just as long as the voices of the students are heard. “It would probably be in the school’s best interest not to overhaul the dining services provider, so the best outcome for all of us would be to look at Sodexo’s operation and see what we can fix,” he said.

Hayes and the Sodexo staff are more than willing to hear the concerns students have with their food service provider. Hayes believes that food is such an important part of the campus community, and students should feel satisfied with their dining options.

McGee’s goal is to reach 600 signatures on the petition, which can be found on www.thepetitionsite.com, by April 4.

1 Comment

One Response to “Sodex-Go?”

  1. Mack on February 24th, 2016 1:48 pm

    Take away Sodexo and you take away dozens of jobs. It’s wrong. There are plenty of options for food at this university, and most schools have Sodexo. I’m embarrassed that people care more about how the quality of their cafeteria food than the well-being of several employees.

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