The cost of campus food for students living in residence has increased this year, provoking some students to question the quality of their meals.
In fact, meal plans at Pembina Hall for residents has increased by $130 for the least amount of meals per week, while other food across campus has increased or stayed the same.
“What we have been seeing is cost rising,” said UMSU president Amanda Aziz. “Variety is not increasing to a significant standard of satisfaction.”
Aziz said that it is hard to get a consensus on taste and quality because of the difference between someone who eats Aramark food everyday and someone who eats it once or twice a month.
“Residents live off Aramark food, and quality should be something the university and Aramark are aiming for,” she said.
UMSU has had limited contact with Aramark, but Aziz said that it is often difficult to get results when dealing with the food services company.
“Sometimes we get the run-around,” she said. “A couple of years ago with the recycling environment group we wanted to have a fair trade coffee option and it was increasingly frustrating and nothing happened.”
Dan Stepanik, president of the Resident Student Association Council (RSAC), feels that the quality of food on the rest of campus is better than in residence.
“We are one of the major sources of income,” said RSAC president Dan Stepanik, “We should be getting the same quality they get at University Centre. They put much more effort in the quality at campo than they do at Pembina Hall.”
RSAC meets with Aramark biweekly and at the end of the year to discuss the quality of the food and changes that students would like to see. Unfortunately, Stepanik and vice-president Kara Moncaster said that sometimes Aramark makes food changes when asked but usually changes are made without any advance warning.
“We tried to get more declining balance on the student meal plan and they didn’t really come through with that,” said Moncaster. “We were negotiating, and when we came back to the university in the fall, everything had changed without any of us being notified, let alone any of the new residents. One of the deals that was supposed to happen was if meal plans expired every month, we would get a higher declining balance, but that ended up not being the case.”
Brent Gilchrist, director of food services for Aramark on campus, said that it would not have been a good idea to raise declining balance.
“We didn’t want to add a lot of price on the residence plans,” he said. “We could have increased it but that would have meant we would have to tax the plan since there is a certain requirement to be tax exempt. We still leave the option to allow people to add money to the declining balance.”
This year, students are not allowed to buy bulk meals such as pizzas to give to charity or homeless and hunger shelters.
“Last year, people were buying food in bulk with their leftover meals and giving them away,” said Moncaster. “They have a sign posted now that says no food shall be donated to charity. I think that is totally wrong. If I were to go to a restaurant to buy a sandwich for a homeless person, the person serving me wouldn’t say, “No, you can’t do that.””
Moncaster added that Aramark isn’t doing the best job that they can and are capable of creating much better quality and variety of food than what is served here.
“The standards are set through Aramark Canada where they standardize recipes, standardize purchasing, so they can have preferred suppliers and get quality food at quality prices.” said Gilchrist.
George Trevor, resident life co-ordinator for East Tache, did not have a problem with the quality of the food, but did say that it was over-priced.
“I think the quality of the food is decent,” he said. “Compared to the amount of people they have to serve, it’s pretty good. It’s not like gourmet but I think they get a bit of a bad reputation because students are used to mom’s cooking. They need to lower their prices a bit.”
However, Gilchrist said that the price of most services hasn’t increased much and that any raise in price was to adjust with current markets.
“The only thing that was really increased was some retail prices,” he said. “Poultry, for example, has really skyrocketed in terms of cost.”
Students agree that the price is too high for students at almost all levels. Hyo-Jin Lee, a second-year student, said that Aramark may be concerned too much about making a profit.
“It is too pricey for students,” she said. “Most students aren’t working or making money for themselves. I think there is space where they can lower the price and still do well.”
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