Emerson will see a number of changes to its dining hall and recycling methods this year with the arrival of the school’s new service provider, Sodexo.
The switch to the France-based company happened early last month, when Sodexo was chosen from three other food service providers to replace ARAMARK, a company which had been with the college for 15 years.
Steve Canario, the new general manager of dining services from Sodexo, said the company is already working with students to meet their individual needs.
“Serving healthy food is one of our main focuses,” he said. “We try to do a great job of labeling our food.”
Sodexo will offer new programs to provide students with easier ways to eat healthy. By logging onto My Fitness Pal, an online calorie counter and diet plan, students and staff can see nutritional information for any of the meals served in the dining hall that day. Each dish will also have color-coded tongs to tell students which meals served are healthy, and which they should eat in moderation, according to Canario.
For students with specific dietary needs, Canario said Sodexo will introduce a new area in the dining hall called My Zone. This is an area set aside for students who follow a dairy-free, gluten-free, or peanut-free lifestyle. Sodexo dietitian and director of undergraduate dining Karen Jew will also be available on campus to answer questions and advise students on any of their nutritional concerns.
Along with introducing some changes to the dining hall, Canario said he also wants to start taking an aggressive stance when it comes to composting and recycling.
Emerson and Sodexo have recently announced their partnership with Planet Police, a compost hauling service, with a plan to develop a composting program on campus. This will include releasing a monthly report to let students know how much the school is composting, as well as how these efforts have impacted the environment, according to Canario.
Eco Reps, volunteer students who will explain how to properly compost leftovers, will be stationed next to the recycling area a couple days a week in the dining hall to talk about the process, said Canario.
Canario also said the dining hall will close at 9 p.m., one hour later than last year, and a newly remodelled C Store, a convenience store on campus, will be a bigger, more modern space. Some ARAMARK employees were offered jobs with Sodexo if they wished to remain on Emerson’s campus, according to Canario.
Alexandra DePalma, a sophomore marketing communication major, said students who weren’t fans of ARAMARK hope Sodexo will bring solutions to past complaints.
“I don’t know if Sodexo knows coming in how unpopular ARAMARK was,” she said. “People have high expectations.”
Sarina Clement, a sophomore writing, literature and publishing major, transferred to Emerson from Endicott College in Mass. this year, a school whose food provider is Sodexo.
She said she thought the the food was good at first, but then things began to sour.
“At first, I thought to myself, ‘Great, I won’t have to starve,’” she said. “Then I started getting headaches and stomachaches, and I think it was from the food.”
Clement said she is living off campus this year. While she already planned on cooking most of her meals, she said when she found out Sodexo was coming to Emerson, she went out and got a new lunch box so she could bring food with her to class instead of going to the dining hall for lunch.
Jay Phillips, Emerson’s associate vice president of facilities and campus services, said he feels confident Sodexo is a good choice for Emerson.
“We will be making sure that [Sodexo’s] food options include healthy, sustainable options and have good value,” Phillips said in an email interview.
However, Sodexo does have a complicated past. The company has faced complaints of low wages, sexual harassment, inadequate sick-leave policies, a lack of health coverage, and anti-union behavior. In March 2001, Sodexo was accused of racial discrimination when nearly all mid- level black employees realized they were denied promotions because of their race. It became one of the biggest race-related job bias settlements in the last decade, according to Fox News.
Last year, all frozen beef products used by Sodexo in the U.K. were withdrawn in February following the discovery of horse DNA in a sample, according to The Guardian.
To keep a line of communication open, Canario said he wants to address any concerns students may have and create an open dialogue by introducing Napkin Notes, an informal program that will allow students to post their questions or complaints to Sodexo on napkins, and get back a response within a day or two. The bulletin board is posted near the recycling area in the dining hall.
Until then, Canario said he’s going to keep his ear to the ground and find out as much about Emerson students as he can.
“So far so good,” he said about his experience so far. “But we definitely need to communicate with the students about the types of services they need. Communication is really important to us.”