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In light of the impending expiration of the College’s contract with Aramark and complaints made by students, Student Government President Jeremy Levinson ‘18 will evaluate student satisfaction with Aramark and explore other food vendors.

“If you want better food, you’re obviously going to have to pay more for it,” Levinson said. “That will be a huge part of the conversation. If the conversation is focused around food quality, the question we should look at is if there is a provider similar to Aramark in the same price range that provides better food. With that said, if the results [of the survey]come back and the students are satisfied with the food on campus, that is a completely different story.”

Levinson sent out a student feedback survey in a March 26 email designed to gain “an insight into the student body’s opinion of the nutritional value, freshness, and prices of Aramark’s offerings,” the email read.

Levinson said the College’s Institutional Research Associate Shane Boyd will examine the survey data and discuss the results with him in the coming weeks.

In addition to student feedback, Levinson plans to visit small liberal art schools in the area and evaluate their food vendors. “We’re taking a group of student senators and doing a comparison and contrast of their food providers, identifying what the major differences are, while at the same time looking at the price of the board plans.”

In May, after reviewing the survey results and visiting neighboring schools, Levinson will have a report for the College. “My hope is with the culmination of these two things, I could write up a report based upon general feedback of Aramark from these two methodologies and report to the College Council, [Vice President for Finance and Planning] Lori Sundberg, or the Board of Trustees,” said Levinson.

The College’s contract with Aramark will expire in the next two years. “The year after next would be the earliest, if any decision would be made on this,” Levinson said. “None of this stuff can happen overnight. If we were to want to make a change and that’s what the student body wanted, then now would be the time to have that conversation.”

After hearing complaints from friends, Levinson said he decided it was necessary to evaluate student satisfaction and potential options. “One of the most important jobs of the president of student government is to report to the board based upon the affairs of the student body,” Levinson said. “The whole reason I wanted to embark on this endeavor is because I do hear a lot of negative criticism about the price of the food in the caf. I wanted to clarify whether that was just my group of friends or whether that was a campus-wide phenomenon.”

Other students have had mixed reactions to cafeteria food quality. “The food quality isn’t horrible. I’ve visited colleges where [it’s] much worse,” Michaela Kopystynsky said. “In terms of variety, we’re good, but our salad bar needs healthier options.”

Levinson said healthier options are often available, but not always prominently placed. “When you walk into the caf, the first thing on your right is the hot food line,” Levinson said. “I don’t know if that’s the wisest thing for college freshmen or students trying to (set) a precedent for the rest of their lives. Should the food being provided to us only consist of healthier options or have those options be readily available?”

Mary Tsakadze ‘18 said she is generally pleased with the food options. “I personally don’t mind the food at all and would be in favor of keeping Aramark, despite hearing fellow peers in passing complain about how the food ‘gets old after awhile,’” Tsakadze said. “I appreciate how Aramark is always trying to seek feedback from the student body—whether it be through flyers around the caf, or emails with links to surveys.”

Aside from food available in the caf, Kopystynsky said prices from the P.O.D. and Boomers are steep, but the food quality is satisfactory. “The prices are expensive, it’s hard to see sometimes because I’m not paying cash out-of-pocket,” Kopystynsky said. “I love that [Boomers] added the deep fryer. It made things faster. But the P.O.D. could have more things for students to make dinner with.”

Levinson said he noticed a similar trend in price. “If I’m a commuter student and I don’t have a lot of Flex, a lot of times I’m going to have to pay with cash and it’s egregiously expensive,” Levinson said. “When you compare food at the P.O.D. and Boomers to the price of food at Jewel-Osco, it’s dramatically different.”

Tsakadze said the P.O.D.’s prices are “reasonable.” “Boomers is great for hot foods,” Tsakadze said. “The P.O.D., on the other hand, could use some diversity. Of course, it would be tough to implement, but  yogurts and fruits mixed in with junk food get old after a while.”

In embarking on this process, Levinson said he has no issues with Aramark, but simply wanted to evaluate the College’s options. “My major purpose is this whole endeavor is not solely to get rid of Aramark,” Levinson said. “My purpose in doing this is making sure Aramark is the right food provider for the school.”

For questions and comments regarding this evaluation process, please contact Jeremy Levinson at levinsonjb@lakeforest.edu.

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