A Focus on Food: BSU Dining Goes Under the Microscope
By Nick Jordan
With Thanksgiving, November is typically a time of the year when food is on the mind a little more than usual. However, BSU and the campus food service provider, Sodexo, worked together to allow students to not only think about but also voice their opinions about the food that they eat through nine focus groups that were scattered throughout the month.
According to Karen Jason, BSU’s Vice President of Operations, these focus groups were organized “based on information that Residence Life and Housing shared with the Division of Operations and their University Services and Assessment departments.” This information came from the Skyfactor Survey that was distributed to all residential students in the spring of this year, as is it is done every three years, with one of its sections focusing on dining given the fact meal plans are mandatory for those who chose to live on campus. The results from this section in particular were found to be “poor,” with a recommendation for these focus groups coming from the Director of Assessment for the Operations Division, Beth Moriarty. Moriarty partnered with Sodexo to set up these nine focus groups, developed the questions by using the previous survey data, advertised and recruited students for the groups and ultimately attended all nine meetings.
One student who attended the focus group, junior Heather McKenna, intended on bringing up her concerns as a vegan and the lack of healthy cooked options as opposed to raw vegetables. Another concern of hers was the amount of plastic that she feels is being wasted especially in ECC and Crimson dining hall. McKenna was one of 123 individual students across all nine of the focus groups. Moriarty, who is currently in the process of reviewing the notes she had taken during each of the meetings and discussing them with Sodexo, found that the focus groups were “very successful.” She felt the information that was shared “helped to paint a more in-depth picture of what the Skyfactor Survey was telling us – basically that students are unhappy with some aspects of the meal plan.” (cont. on pg 2)
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The coming month will be dedicated to reviewing the results and collaborating with Sodexo to implement some changes. By the time students return from winter break in January, they will be greeted with a media campaign, “You Asked/We Listened,” as well as an open forum to discuss what changes can be made immediately, what changes should be considered more long term and those that are not found to be realistic for either parties at least for the time being.
As it stands, the university has a contract with Sodexo that runs through June 30, 2020 and is currently in the process of a “competitive procurement process for University dining services.” Due to its competitive nature, proposals are expected to be received by two or three providers providers in addition to Sodexo, with all planned to be considered equally. Going by the expression “you are what you eat,” hopefully with these focus groups, the campus will be one step closer to providing students with dining options that better fit the values that they each individually uphold.
Nick Jordan is the Opinion Editor for The Comment.