Gleason: Kicking Sodexo off campus is inefficient

Some American schools have had successful student-led campaigns to end their contracts with Sodexo. There’s a better way.

Like myriad other corporations these days, Sodexo Inc., Temple’s official food provider, has jumped on the “green” band wagon.

So what’s Sodexo sustainability like at Temple? There’s the Express Nap: recycled, single-serving napkins, plus the reusable dishes and glasses at the Johnson & Hardwick cafeteria, as well as a food recycling program that feeds your leftover pizza and hot dogs to farm animals as opposed to methane-belching landfills.

There’s cardboard recycling. There’s even the new Balanced Way program that encourages students to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

I appreciate these efforts, but Sodexo, along with Temple dining, is more than a few wheatgrass shakes away from being truly “green.”

First, there’s the inconsistency. While J&H boasts reusables and a food recycling program, the Valaida S. Walker Food Court in the Student Center is filling up the landfills.

David Tolbert, general manager of Temple Dining Services, said the Student Center gets “considerably more traffic than J&H, which serves up an average of 5,000 meals per day.” If the Student Center serves just 6,000 meals per day, with one plate, one cup, and a set of plastic cutlery per meal, that’s 30,000 pieces of plastic and Styrofoam being trashed each day.

Then there’s the food. Everything would be good if the Balanced Way was the only way. In fact, Amy Virus, a dietitian and senior health services coordinator at the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple, commends the Balanced Way program, calling it “a legitimate nutritional program that can help students make educated choices — choices that they face in the real world.”

In a stark contrast to Balanced Way, the all-you-can-eat buffet at J&H encourages over-eating, and both the Student Center and J&H offer a plethora of unbalanced offerings. Who will forgo tantalizing french fries for the rice, the juicy burger for a platefull of hummus? In both J&H and the Student Center, lines for unhealthy fare are always the longest. Telling students they should eat healthily but dangling junk food in their faces is courting failure.

We are quickly becoming a diabetic nation, and the last time I checked, Sodexo doesn’t offer its customers health coverage.

A handful of U.S. universities including American University, Oberlin College, Portland State University, Binghamton University and Allegheny College have dumped Sodexo in response to student-organized boycotts. These boycotts advocated for the removal of Sodexo due to unethical practices, such as racial discrimination, unfair pay, and their parent company’s ownership of prisons.

While Sodexo has some ugly skeletons in the closet, throwing them out of one campus only asks for another similar corporation. Instead, corporate responsibility must be cultivated through the leverage of the consumer/supplier relationship.

Sandra McDade, director of the newly founded Temple Sustainability Initiative, encourages “students to make contact and communicate the change they want from Sodexo.”

We have a long way to go before dining service provided by Sodexo and Temple is truly sustainable. The good news is that we, the students — the consumers — have the power to influence change.
So before you fork over the Diamond Dollars, ask yourself: Am I contributing to the problem?

Emily Gleason can be reached at

1 Comment

  1. Wow, that’s really interesting that these options such as food recycling are available at Temple.

    What I find even more interesting in a way is that there is no food recycling option at the Ambler Campus which is actually an Arboretum. Further, the Ambler College is one of few campuses across the country boasting Landscape Architecture as a major area of study, and also offers Horticulture.

    Our campus even has a compost heap, formal gardens, green house, and even used to be a Women’s Agricultural College. Hopefully we can take advantage of such a great recycling and sustainability opportunity very soon. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

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