By Fabian Mayer, April 2 2015 —
The University of Calgary’s new food service provider, Aramark, is facing scrutiny after students at Newfoundland’s Memorial University posted photos of mouldy and undercooked food from the university’s dining centre on social media.
Pictures of nearly raw pork chops, a mouldy lemon and a fly in a taco were among those posted to social media. Like at the U of C, Memorial students living in residence must buy a meal plan. Meal plans at the U of C run from around $2,000 to over $4,000 per year.
The U of C recently awarded Aramark, whose other clients include American prisons, a five-year contract to provide food at the Dining Centre, as well as other food services around the university.
Jill Blackie is responsible for food and conference services at the U of C. She said the process to award the contract was “thorough and exhaustive,” adding that it is designed to be objective and leave “no margin for bias.”
Aramark beat out current food service provider, Chartwells, whose contract with the university expires this spring. Blackie said the university does not look at a company’s reputation as part of the process.
“When you talk about reputation it can be a very subjective thing, it’s somebody’s opinion. So no, we are looking at the bid that’s in front of us, their performance and their promise to perform,” Blackie said.
Students’ Union Vice-president operations and finance Adam Swertz sat on the university committee that selected Aramark. He thinks the university should tweak their selection process.
“I see elements of it that are fair, but at the same time I would recommend looking at the reputation of [food service providers at] every other institution. It just seems common practice,” Swertz said.
Blackie said the university has food quality standards and performance indicators in place to ensure good food is available to students.
SU faculty of science representative Keean Bexte has lived in residence for the past two years. He was disappointed to hear about the problems with Aramark’s food at Memorial.
Bexte thinks problems of this sort are partially a result of the long-term contracts the university hands out.
“I think that there needs to be a fundamental change in our food service model and that comes right down to the university forcing students to pay money they don’t have into a fund they don’t use to buy food they don’t want,” Bexte said.
Bexte said U of C students should be “watchful of the quality of food” from now on.
Aramark provided a statement regarding the events at Memorial. The company said that they take customer concerns seriously and “were shocked by the images we saw for the first time on social media.”
“None of the issues were reported to anyone at Aramark or MUN Dining Services, and this was unfortunate as we were unable to remedy these matters instantly,” the statement read.
According to CBC News, Memorial students dispute this, saying they had raised the issues on multiple occasions but that their concerns were not being addressed.