When walking through the doors of the UVM dining halls, students are met with a sea of different food choices. To the left there is a Chinese and specialty pasta station. To the right there is a salad bar stocked with a variety of yogurts and fresh fruit, and straight to the back is the vegan station, an assortment of breads and rolls and a dessert display.
Soon, Castleton students can expect to have a similar dining experience in Huden Dining Hall with Sodexo as their new food provider.
The fine details of the new contract were worked out this week as the Vermont State College’s came together and made a decision to not renew their contract with Aramark, which has served students food for the past 20 years.
“They came across as very eager to partner with the college,” said Dean of Administration Scott Dikeman, adding that Sodexo has provided a financially better deal for the college.
As the new food provider, they have made a commitment to use mainly local foods and accommodate special needs for any students with allergies or different food preferences such as vegan or vegetarian. They will also be presenting marchÃ©-style dining said Dikeman, allowing students to see their food being prepared right in front of them.
Dikeman said Sodexo hopes to present a more fresh and personal dining experience for students and allow students more options to eat healthy.
There will also be a take -out option available for students, allowing them to get reusable containers to take their food outside of the dining hall and meal plans with will now be able to be used at Fireside CafÃ© for daily meals up to a certain dollar amount.
In addition to changes being made to the food, there will also be renovations to Huden Dining Hall, Fireside CafÃ© and the Coffee Cottage at a cost of $1.2 million. This will include enhanced seating, adding a new entrance on the east side of Huden Dining Hall, and opening up the dining spaces.
“Sodexo is really committed to making a positive impact here,” said Dikeman, “We can only hope students will see that.”
But some on campus are reluctant about the change.
“I think Aramark was overall quite good compared to other schools,” argued history professor Mike Austin.
Austin has been a teacher at Castleton for over 30 years and has enjoyed many meals in the Huden Dining Hall. He feels that Aramark has done a decent job of feeding such a large and diverse group of people and doesn’t see how a new provider could make a huge difference.
He feels as though some students may have too high of expectations for what kinds of foods that they expect to get from a college or university.
Junior Rafael Escobar disagrees. He says Aramark’s food variety has fallen short and argues replacing the company is much a much needed change.
“All the hot food options are just extremely unappetizing,” said Escobar stressing that it’s not a blow to the staff, but to the actual food itself.
Escobar said hiring a new company is a real step in the right direction, but they are still going to have a hard time pleasing all students because there will always be a group of doubters.
Traditionally students have complained about Aramark saying there are too few choices and that the options available often aren’t too appetizing.
“The place hasn’t changed since freshman year,” said junior Pat Riley, adding that he has had to often choose between the same options three times a day for the past three years.w
Now that he lives off campus, he doesn’t use the Castleton dining services as frequently, but he said he would still like to see a significant change in what is available for students.
“Maybe a Chinese station,” he said, after also suggesting more local food and a chef preparing the meals right in front of students to guarantee the freshness.
Riley plans to give the new food service a try and hopes it will be a change for the best, enticing him to go to Huden more often.
“I’ve only heard bad things Ã¥about the food,” said incoming student Sara Miles, who ate in the dining hall once for orientation and found that the food options weren’t exactly what she was looking for. “This helps a lot to know they are trying to change things and I’m excited to see the finished product.”
The University of Vermont, which uses Sodexo for their dining services, has received mostly positive feedback about the food and many students seem to be satisfied with the large variety of food they are provided.
Sophomore and political science Major Margaret Quinn has been a student at UVM for a year now after transferring from Towson University in Maryland and has thoroughly enjoyed the Sodexo dining experience.
“We have a lot of healthy option here,” Quinn said mentioning that on top of all the fresh products their dining hall is provided with, they also make special dishes for vegan and vegetarian students.
She said Sodexo offers options including a sushi bar, sandwich counter, and a combined soup and salad station. Students can also choose from a variety of hot meals including Chinese, Panini’s and specialized pasta dishes.
“I think a good food service with a wide variety of healthy and tasty food options is key to satisfying students,” said Quinn. “No one wants to eat the same gross cafeteria food that had in high school,” she said.