Castleton State College and other Vermont State schools may be serving different food to its students by the end of next year.
Next June Aramark’s contract with Vermont State Schools will be coming to an end and Castleton’s administration is gearing up with its sister schools to create a new food contract over the course of the next year. The contract will be directly focused on the needs and wants of the students and will be pieced together by analyzing all aspects of food service on campus, officials say.
Castleton President Dave Wolk has been one of the most involved members and said if students want to voice their opinions on the matter, now is the time.
“We (Vermont State Schools) are working together with a national consultant to put together a bid for the food services” said Wolk, who added that he’s looking forward to seeing the competition between companies and what each of them will offer the school in way of food service innovations.
“They will be researching us as well to find out if they can provide what this campus needs for the right dining environment,” Wolk said.
The outside consultant hired by Vermont state schools will be visiting Castleton on Sept. 28 for several days to interview students, faculty and food staff as well as evaluate equipment needs and the style of food service needed for the school.
For many students like Dylan Plumley, who are less than thrilled with the performances of the food services, the timing couldn’t be better.
“They’ve (Aramark) been running with confidence this whole time, not worried that the food tastes like shit,” said Plumely who started a “Petition to Remove Aramark from CSC” Facebook page after being told he couldn’t leave the dining hall with his coffee by Huden employees and that Public Safety would be informed if he did. “The way they enforce their policies and the attitude in which they operate towards the students, it’s uncaring.”
Plumely modeled the page after efforts done by Duke University when polling its students about the quality of Aramark’s work on their campus and says that in the end it exists not as a means to cause trouble, but to advocate change and get student opinions to better campus dining.
Wolk also mentioned the possibility of operating independently and has made it part of the research process to find out whether or not Castleton could maintain its own full time staff of Huden chefs as a way to increase revenue for the school.
Dean of Students Dennis Proulx said that may be a bit too ambitious.
“It’s something that’s worthwhile to look into, but big companies can handle liability better than we could,” said Proulx. “They have the staff and personnel at many layers that we need and would lose if we went independent.”
The writing of the new contract will ultimately affect another important future project for the school, the renovation of Huden dining hall.
“I visited three different schools with Aramark, all doing different things that we could use,” said Proulx. “Given the tools we are able to provide them within Huden, I believe that the variety of food and the creativity we see from them is exceptional, but I also believe in what we need now as well.”
Proulx went on to remark how the equipment within Huden is extremely dated and hopes that with a new contract Castleton will be able to route money toward providing newer technologies within the dining hall with the aid of the future food provider.
And many students are ready for the needed changes that the contract renewal will bring, be it with or without Aramark.
“I think that we need to bring in someone new,” said sophomore Nick Moon. “I don’t think the service is bad, they just need to be able to give us more variety and serving choice.”
According to Food Service Director Michael Williams, Aramark is optimistic and the company will be looking forward to seeing what direction the VSC decides to take with dining on campus as well as the feedback from the research found by the consultant during his visit.
By December a request for proposal, or RFP, will be drafted after the consultants have reviewed the needs of the schools and sent out to the major food vendors interested in the contract. From there the vendors will visit CSC to find out if they can meet the needs requested and by February of 2012 a company will be decided.
When it comes down to it, according to Proulx, it will be the students who make the decision.
“We could be serving Fillet Minion every meal if it’s what the students wanted!” said Proulx.