Like NYU, Barnard Drops Aramark for Chartwells

Barnard announced Thursday that it will drop Aramark and switch to Chartwells after students protested Aramark’s ties to prisons.


Polina Buchak

Food options from NYU dining halls. (WSN file photo)

Meghna Maharishi, News Editor

Barnard College decided to drop Aramark as a food service provider in favor of Chartwells in an announcement on Thursday. The Compass Group subsidiary will take over the college’s dining operations in summer 2019, just as it will at NYU.

According to the Columbia Daily Spectator, Barnard  — the women’s college in partnership with Columbia University — made the announcement after protests by its students over Aramark’s ties to federal and private prisons through boycotts and a petition signed by over 1,000 students. Chartwells does not have any ties to prisons but its parent company, Compass Group, does provide vending services to prisons in Florida, Michigan and Canada.

In a press release, Barnard said that Chartwells will work with the college’s community to address issues such as sustainability and food insecurity.

“Chartwells will focus on reducing Barnard’s carbon footprint by eliminating food waste through composting, recycling, the use of reusable packaging, and a commitment to innovation,” the press release reads. “[F]urthermore, Chartwells is committed to partnering with the community to tackle issues of food insecurity.”

Student activists in the group Barnard No Aramark have protested Aramark on its campus for the past year. In a statement, the group said that the switch to Chartwells was a step in the right direction.

“The move from Aramark to Chartwells ensures that students are no longer paying their dining bills to companies that profit off of mass incarceration,” Barnard No Aramark wrote. “It is a move towards a better and more ethical Barnard dining.”

Co-head of Barnard No Aramark and Columbia University sophomore Maeve Flaherty said that ultimately the group wants Barnard to switch to Columbia’s dining services, which are self-provided.

“We’re by no means overjoyed, because our primary goal was Columbia dining,” Flaherty said. “Barnard getting rid of Aramark is still a sign of student power and the administration listening to our concerns. For now, we’re choosing to take it as a win to move our campaign forward for a campus-based dining provider.”

Barnard’s announcement to drop Aramark is similar to the one NYU released three weeks prior. In March, WSN reported that the university planned to not renew its contract with Aramark and would instead switch to Chartwells.

NYU initiated a bidding process for a new food service provider after Lipton Dining Hall failed a health inspection in the fall 2017 semester. Aramark came under fire again in the spring 2018 semester when Downstein served a meal for Black History Month that played into racist stereotypes. Student activists have long protested Aramark’s relationship with prisons, and most recently, the Incarceration to Education Coalition occupied Bobst Library and the Kimmel Center for University Life to protest Aramark.

At Barnard, a committee comprised of administrators and students along with consulting group JGL Foodservice Consultants selected Chartwells. Barnard’s Chief Operating Officer Rob Goldberg led the committee. In the press release, Goldberg acknowledged Aramark’s contributions to the Barnard community.

“We thank Aramark, who served the Barnard community well for more than 30 years,” Goldberg said in the press release. “The selection process was extremely competitive, and we are grateful to the administrators and students who participated.”

While NYU has chosen Chartwells to take over dining operations, it is still unclear how the transition will affect meal plans, dining halls and the employment status of current Aramark employees at NYU. The university said that one of its priorities in the transition was to address issues of food insecurity, affordability and the employment of its current dining staff.

According to the Spectator, meal plans will stay the same at Barnard, but pricing may differ as the college transitions to Chartwells. There was no mention of how the transition would affect the employment status of current Aramark employees in the press release.

Email Meghna Maharishi at [email protected]