Staff editorial: What AU needs from a new food service provider
University must involve student voices in the bidding process
American University is preparing to potentially replace Aramark, its current food vendor, by opening up the bidding process for a new provider. Per The Eagle’s reporting, Aramark is unlikely to be chosen to continue providing food service on campus.
The administration’s decision comes after a long history of controversy and student frustration with both Aramark and the University. Since the vendor replaced Bon Appetit in 2013, students have voiced their concerns with meal plan prices, mistreatment of Aramark workers and a lack of either healthy or halal options on campus.
Food insecure students have long struggled with access to on-campus dining locations and consistent healthy, sustainable sources of nutrition at AU. Although steps have been taken to address student concerns, such as the addition of The Market, AU’s free food pantry, frustrations are reaching new heights.
The Eagle is pleased that the administration has finally taken notice of student concerns and is willing to welcome change to how it provides food to the student body. Those changes, however, will amount to nothing if the University’s next provider follows Aramark’s precedent for shady, inadequate and out-of-touch service.
American University students deserve the right to be involved in an enduring transparency in both the bidding process and thereafter, one that properly vets and examines each bidder’s treatment of workers and quality of service. Students need a responsive vendor that is willing to accept where its service is lacking and promptly address the issue in a public way. We encourage open dialogue sessions to voice these concerns.
AU’s food vendor should not simply provide food. Healthy, nutritional and inclusive options are paramount to all students. A food provider should understand the difference between just being edible and being sustainable, always striving to service the latter to the student body.
For too long, food providers at AU have mistreated their workers in a myriad of ways. AU should insist in its request for proposal (RFP) that workers’ rights be outlined and protected. They should guarantee that workers will not lose their pensions in the transition from one provider to the next. AU should also address food insecurity in its RFP and take measures to ensure that a new vendor provides adequate resources to alleviate those concerns.
American University students know what to expect from Aramark. They deserve better than the poor, unresponsive and apathetic service provided to them. With a new vendor, AU has a chance to raise the bar for food service on campus, if only they can bend so low as to reach it.