It is always a pressing matter at Southern Nazarene University: whether or not the food in Sodexo will be satisfyingly different today or if it will be the same choices served multiple times a day, all week long. Because of the many complaints being issued by my peers and myself about Sodexo’s quality of food, SNU has decided to entertain the idea of allowing Sodexo’s contract to expire with the university.
At the beginning of this semester, SNU hosted representatives of the food services Aramark and Chartwells. Students were invited to come listen to the representatives’ information and ask questions regarding concerns they have with the current food situation. Although I did not attend these meetings, I interviewed Meagan Green, sophomore resident advisor, who said she was not very satisfied with Chartwells.
“I know the school is looking at a few options, and I can’t say that I was incredibly impressed with Chartwells,” Green said. “However, the representatives from this company did have some interesting views on what food service should be like.”
Besides having the mundane meals of hamburgers, sandwiches and pizza every day, students at SNU have no idea what other choices they have for lunch and dinner unless they go upstairs to look. They also have a limited amount of time to eat their meals, and food services are essentially nonexistent on weekends. Chartwells plans to help solve both of these problems.
“They offer an app for phones that describes the menu,” Green said. “I would have the ability to look at the menu and decide if I wanted to eat in the dining hall without having to walk to the Commons. They also presented the option to extend the hours of Pops and the dining hall.”
Despite Sodexo’s failures with their lack of food options, one thing many people agree the company does well is posting calorie counts and what ingredients are placed in the food they serve in a place where everybody can see it. According to Green, Chartwells will not physically post the make-up of each meal. Green is worried that if the food service is not willing to place a list of the facts about each meal near where it is being served, that they will not accommodate those who are on a special diet.
“I eat nearly every day with a friend who cannot eat gluten, which is in most foods,” Green said. “Sodexo chefs, especially Wendy, are very good at working with people with special dietary needs, and go out of their way to change up the somewhat boring menu that those with dietary needs are bound to.”
Sodexo has made some nice gestures in order to help those on a different diet feel like they are important to the company. Having heard the complaints of students with vegan and/or vegetarian lifestyles, however, I know the gestures are not enough. This is not to mention that people with no particular diet needs are themselves not content with the lack of food options.
“I honestly don’t care if the school changes food services or not. The important part to me is the food, not the company that provides it,” Green said. “If the school changes companies and the food service quality stays the same or worsens, students will be just as unhappy as they are now.”
So the question, therefore, is not if SNU will change food services, but whether or not the quality of food service will change. Only the beginning of another semester will provide the answer.