NYU Discusses Dining Providers, Food Insecurity Before Winter Break

The bidding committee heard Aramark’s and Compass Group’s presentations and discussed food insecurity in December.

Meghna Maharishi and Victor Porcelli

Multiple groups of NYU students and administrators met in December to discuss which company will become the university’s food service provider as well as how NYU can better address food insecurity on campus.

The bidding committee is currently reviewing and analyzing Aramark’s and Compass Group’s proposals. According to Associate Vice President for Campus Services Owen Moore, the university has sent another round of questions to Aramark and Compass Group.

“We will receive [Aramark’s and Compass Group’s] responses this week, in addition, panel members are visiting campuses during the month of January and February,” Moore wrote in a statement to WSN. “The panel and recommendation committee is still on schedule to make a recommendation to the [Executive Vice President], Provost, and President by March 1, 2019.”

Once the recommendation committee gives its final input, negotiations with the chosen food service provider will begin and a new contract is scheduled to be offered in June.

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Food insecurity was one of the issues discussed during Aramark’s and Compass Group’s presentations. Bidding committee member and Alternate Senator-at-Large for students experiencing food insecurity Jakiyah Bradley said that the providers would be expected to take some part in efforts to combat food insecurity on campus.

“I think that there’s going to be some component that we are going to ask [the food service providers] to do in terms of supplementing courtesy meals,” Bradley said.

Bradley was also involved in a meeting between a group of administrators and students that included Vice President of Student Affairs Marc Wais. The group met to discuss how NYU could improve and expand upon the Courtesy Meals Program.

The Courtesy Meals Program provides students facing a food shortage with 75 Dining Dollars, no questions asked. First created in fall 2016 by a Food Insecurity Workgroup formed due to growing concerns by students, the program was more widely publicized last semester and discourse surrounding the issue increased.

“We are trying to understand first what students want and then what administrators think will actually work on a campus like ours, because it’s so big and unique,” Bradley said. “It’s hard.”

Besides attempting to work with whichever dining provider is selected to better address food insecurity on campus, Bradley said that the Courtesy Meals Program may be adjusted, something Wais has also alluded to in an email to WSN.

“They are tweaking the process in a way that will make it easier for students,” Bradley said.

Currently, students who use the program multiple times can receive an inquiry from the administration, which can involve discussing their situation and alerting them to additional resources. Although the inquiry is meant to help students, at a town hall that Bradley hosted some expressed that it may discourage them from using the program. Bradley suggested that the change may seek to address these concerns.

Bradley said the hour-long meeting was mainly spent updating administrators from different offices, such as the Office of the President and the Office of Retention, on what the Courtesy Meals Program is, how food insecurity affects students and how it may relate to their individual office. However, Bradley also brought up the idea of a food pantry — which was rejected by the university in 2016.

“The food pantry I brought up at the end because that’s the one I know students have come to me about the most,” Bradley said.

In addition to making different proposals to administrators, Bradley says she will continue to press whichever dining provider is selected to address food insecurity at NYU, saying she was “just a little bit annoying” during their presentations.

“I don’t really intend on being less annoying because this will affect students five years from now,” Bradley said.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, print edition. Email Meghna Maharishi and Victor Porcelli at [email protected].

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