TSG to join Aramark transition talks

Representatives weren’t included until the end of winter break.

Temple Student Government, which was closely involved in the selection process for the university’s new food service provider, Aramark, had to wait two and a half months before they were involved in the transition process.

Aramark won the bid to replace Sodexo, which had served the university for 28 years, and now has a 15-year contract with the university. The transition will not only affect which vendors appear on campus, but also meal plans and the sustainability efforts Sodexo, TSG and the Office of Sustainability have put in place.

The transition, originally scheduled to begin July 1, was moved ahead six weeks and will now begin May 13, said Michael Scales, the associate vice president for Business Services at Temple. He said the change was the result of Temple and Aramark’s desire to begin the renovation of the Student Center early.

In December, two months after the Board of Trustees approved Aramark, Student Body President Aron Cowen said TSG had yet to be contacted by the university or the company to discuss the transition.

“Given how significant this is to the student experience, we need student representation,” Cowen said in December. “We’re the ones that are going to end up using the services.”

But now, TSG has scheduled meetings with Business Services at Temple to discuss how TSG will work with Aramark on the transition and set up the “blueprint” for TSG’s involvement, Cowen said on Monday.

“We’re seeing a lot more receptiveness and a lot of willingness to involve students,” he added.

Aaron Weckstein, TSG’s director of grounds and sustainability, said in December he wants to make sure the contract has language that protects sustainability efforts like composting in the Student Center and providing students with locally sourced food.

Scales said a process as large as changing food service providers takes a very long time and has multiple phases. After the Board announced Aramark as its choice, he said, Temple and Aramark immediately began developing the contract.

“A lot of [the contract negotiating] is sensitive information and we want to keep that as confidential as possible,” he said. He added that many of the meetings between Temple and Aramark took place when students were not around during winter break.

The Food Service Committee, Cowen said, will be made up of various stakeholders in university dining, which includes TSG as student representatives and caterers for administrative offices. He said the committee would act like a “think-tank” for Aramark to get feedback.

Scales said that in addition to beginning meetings with TSG, Business Services and Aramark are hoping to create a Food Service Committee and Aramark has also been surveying students in dining halls and food courts.

“We’re seeing a good start of our relationship,” Cowen said. “We’re on the right track.”

Scales said that there will not be much “demonstrable change” in the first year of the contract because Temple and Aramark “want stability.” He said that the Fresh To Go stations will change, but students will notice the most widespread changes from Aramark begin in Fall 2018

Weckstein, who said he’s worried that the current sustainability practices in place with Sodexo won’t be upheld with Aramark, said the transition could “change everything.” The Office of Sustainability has also not been invited into the contract talks with Aramark.

“There’s going to be a lot of questions,” he said.

Julie Christie can be reached at julie.christie@temple.edu or on Twitter @ChristieJules.

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