Rebuking Aramark, Students Pressure NYU Dining Services

SGA passed a resolution to boycott food service providers such as Aramark, Compass Group USA and AVI Foodsystems because of their relationships with prisons, although all three companies expressed interest in submitting a proposal to NYU’s bidding process.

Student Senators Council passed a resolution that will prohibit NYU from using dining providers invested in the prison industrial system. Aramark, NYU's current provider, supplies prisons nationwide. (Photo by Tony Wu)

In a nearly unanimous vote, with only one abstention, the Student Government Assembly passed a resolution backed by the Incarceration to Education Coalition to pressure NYU to boycott food service providers that have relationships with prisons in a meeting last Thursday.

The resolution was passed the same day as the deadline for food service providers to submit proposals to NYU’s upcoming bidding process. NYU called for a bidding process in the middle of Aramark’s 10-year contract with the university after Lipton’s C-grade grade health inspection in November 2017.

Current providers that have expressed interest in servicing NYU are Aramark, Compass Group and AVI Foodsystems while Sodexo dropped out of the process in September. All providers that have shown interest in submitting a proposal also serve federal and private prisons.

Other than a boycott, the resolution endorsed the IEC’s campaign to pressure NYU to independently run its dining services. The resolution also asks for the IEC to have a spot on the Dining Advisory Committee.

SGA will no longer use its funds for Aramark’s catering subsidiary, Top of the Square, which normally caters for events in Kimmel Center for University Life. Instead, the SGA will donate those funds to support formerly-incarcerated people and abolitionist activist groups. Before the vote took place, Senator-at-Large Rose Asaf said that it was feasible for SGA to find alternative catering companies.

“As you all know, I’m the director of operations, which means I’m the one who orders the food, and that also means I would be the one who would be putting this into action,” Asaf said. “I feel like Aramark is dealing with overpriced food and a corporation that supports private prisons. My full support is behind [the resolution]. On a logistical end, we’re clear.”

In a statement to WSN, the IEC was thrilled that its resolution passed.

“IEC applauds [SGA] for passing the resolution and is excited to bring the urgent issue of NYU’s divestment from the carceral state to President Hamilton,” IEC wrote. “We will be at the University Senate meeting on Nov. 8 to speak with senators outside the meeting.”

Despite the passing of the resolution, Assistant Vice President for Campus Services Owen Moore still feels that complete divestment from food service providers with ties to prisons is not possible but is open to student input in the bidding process.

“Realistically, there are a limited number of vendors who can [meet NYU’s dining needs]. And virtually all of them will be food service providers in a wide range of institutional settings,” Moore said in an email to WSN. “All bids will also be subject to review by a review committee that includes student representation, ensuring that student representatives will have an opportunity to ask questions and make recommendations as part of this process.” 

The IEC remains optimistic that it will eventually garner support from the administration for the resolution because it already has endorsements from 42 campus clubs and organizations, the SGA and the 832 students who signed its petition for the resolution.

“We hope [the] NYU administration will recognize that the student body has spoken, and we hope that they won’t let down the thousands of students who are anti-Aramark, anti-Compass Group and all other big food corporations that profit off of mass incarceration,” IEC wrote. “Should they fail to be accountable to all of our voices, we have a powerful coalition of people ready to fight until NYU does what’s right.”

A version of this article appeared on the Monday, Nov. 5 print edition. Email Meghna Maharishi at [email protected]

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