Image courtesy of http://chartwellshighered.com/
By Jacqueline Jedrych
Catholic University students may soon notice a change in on-campus dining in the Pryzbyla Center, as the university has ended their contract with dining provider Aramark and switched to Chartwells. The switch from dining providers began in August and will be available to students when the university’s dining hall reopens on September 8. Catholic University began negotiations with Chartwells in May and confirmed its contract in late July. Chartwells is a prominent dining service company, serving 300 college campuses around the country. In light of the transition, the university will be hiring several new staff members, and the university hopes that the food quality will also improve.
Students on campus have already noticed changes for the better, even in quarantine.
“While the quarantine options are limited the food seems more varied each week and more nutritious than last school year,” said sophomore nursing major Corinne Millis. “I have been really enjoying the new vegan options!”
Before students were made aware of the decision to switch to Chartwell, a group called CUA Students for Food Justice led by Elizabeth Hashimoto started a petition to end CUA’s involvement with Aramark, due to the claims that Aramark makes money off of prisons.
“Aramark has been sued more than 200 times in federal court by prisoners over their failing to provide safe, healthy, and edible food,” Hashimoto said. “In 2015, the state of Michigan terminated its contract with the company because of a myriad of issues, including food shortages and extremely unsanitary kitchens, as well as their employees attempting to smuggle drugs to inmates, engaging in sexual acts with inmates, and attempting to hire an inmate to have another inmate assaulted. Similar issues have been reported with Aramark in New Jersey, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and Ohio prisons.”
Additionally, the organization claims that Aramark has “has non-food contracts with ICE”, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency often associated with inhumane treatment of detainees, such as overcrowding, sexual abuse, forced labor, and lost children.
CUA Students for Food Justice demanded Catholic University end their contract with Aramark and ensure that the university begins a new contract with a more ethical food provider. William Jonas, Catholic University’s Executive Director of University Events and Dining Services, claims that Catholic University, although aware of the petition, made this decision based on the school’s reevaluation of their dining program in light of the new dining hall being built, expected to open in 2022.
“The petition did not have an impact on the decision,” Jonas said. “The evaluation committee considered all factors for the companies that provided proposals.”
Chartwells Higher Ed is a campus-focused dining service that reportedly has never had a hand in prison labor or ICE detention centers. Their parent company, Compass, claims to have sold all their prison focused business in 2014.
However, CUA Students for Food Justice is still advocating for a more ethical and pro-life dining provider.
“Compass Group companies operate in prisons around the world, such as across Canada,” Hashimoto said. “They do not work directly in American prisons, but do retain an ownership stake in Trinity, another food company that serves over 300 prisons in the US. They are also involved with ICE. Another one of their subsidiaries, Eurest, works in migrant and refugee detention across Europe and Australia.”
Eurest has faced multiple lawsuits regarding the conditions of the food served to inmates.
“A university with stated pro-life ideals must stand for human lives in all stages including those in prison, and detention camps,” Hashimoto said. “Many institutions have begun exploring how they can contribute more fully to bringing about racial and social justice. I hope that CUA will do the same in this area.”