Peter Horan: Seek another food supplier

After a frustratingly unproductive term of service, the Student Association’s Dining Services Commission chair Kim Neu stepped down from her position in December of last year. After failed attempts to extend dinning hours and introduce modest weekend hours, Neu walked away from her position. Her single improvement to J Street was the addition of a microwave. Hardly change I can believe in.

But in reality, the issues with J Street don’t stem from Kim Neu. At last Monday’s Hatchet-SA Debate, candidates mentioned vacant Student Association seats that people are just not willing to fill. Right now, the DSC chair position falls into that category. For J Street to get any real improvements in food quality, hours or price, GW needs to take its business from Sodexo and seek another, more flexible food supplier.

Students complain about the insufficient opening hours of J Street, its outrageously high pricing (I have purchased salads for $10), and its lack of food variety. Unfortunately, the hours J Street operates must comply with its contract with Sodexo, and I doubt we’ll see a reduction in prices any time soon. Food variety seems the only flexible category, and while 2008 saw the addition of nine GWorld vendors, when I eat at J Street, my choices seem to remain salad, junk food or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Sodexo needs to go.

J Street is not a student dining plan, nor is it a student dining hall, but a highly lucrative Sodexo business. The real outrage is that this Sodexo food court is disguised as a benefit to students, and included in everybody’s bill! Each freshman must pay $1,400 per year to the program, while sophomores are required to pay $500. Based on GW’s enrollment, that guarantees Sodexo revenues of roughly $4,750,000 at minimum! The one power consumers possess is where they choose to spend their money, but at GW, we don’t seem to have that luxury.

As an alternative to Sodexo, GW should follow University of North Carolina’s Chapel Hill’s superior meal plan and use Aramark as its food service provider. I know students at UNC who say they couldn’t be more satisfied with their meal plan, in which a fee is paid per semester which sets a specific number of meals per week, with an “all-you-care-to-eat” policy. Unlike GW, where J Street charges by the ounce for specific amounts of food per meal, UNC charges an entrance fee per meal based on the amount of meals purchased in the meal plan. Whether one eats more or less is up to the student. This is the classic meal plan for college students, a far cry from J Street’s food-court policy.

Unfortunately, GW and Sodexo agreed on a 10-year contract of operation as of 2006. If GW cannot find a way out of this contract, then we must come to peace with Sodexo’s policies and J Street’s inadequacies until the next chance to change them.

The writer is a sophomore majoring in history.

Readers can visit the Forum to comment on this column.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.