Students petition for more inclusion in campus dining policies, choices

Media Credit: Lydia Francis | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Progressive Student Union members Ross Berry, left, and Cavan Kharrazian, right, helped start the Real Food Real Jobs petition to better integrate sustainable food sources, student involvement and employee representation in GW's dining services.

Students are asking University officials to include more of their input when making decisions about campus dining options.

Members of the Progressive Student Union, who launched the “Real Food, Real Jobs” petition last week, said it is urgent that their points, ranging from making dining options more affordable to adding a per-day swipe-system, be implemented as GW nears the end of its contract with food vendor Sodexo in spring 2016.

The petition calls for GW to make dining hall food more sustainable, retain dining workers’ contracts and allow for student oversight in dining-related decisions. Signers are also asking for retaining all current employees and the creation of a student work-study position for research on students’ health and food choices at on-campus dining venues.

“If you just mention you want to fix J Street, people throw up their arms and they’re so excited, because I guarantee you every freshman who has had to eat at J Street is unsatisfied,” PSU member Ross Berry said.

In last month’s Student Association elections, four of the six candidates running for executive positions campaigned with platform points that included student space and dining issues.

PSU is also calling on the University to immediately enact the Real Food Challenge, a national student-led movement to make 20 percent of dining halls’ food sustainable and locally sourced. University President Steven Knapp committed to enacting the Real Food Challenge by 2020 last year. PSU members said starting the challenge before spring 2016 would set a precedent for a new food provider contract that year as well as for potential food vendors in District House.

Members of the organization aim to collect 1,000 students’ signatures. As of Sunday night, more than 575 students had signed the petition online or in person.

Director of Campus Support Services Nancy Haaga declined to comment on whether students’ demands in the petition could be met.

PSU members included workers’ rights in the document after Sodexo announced it would lay off two J Street workers this winter. GW has no control over Sodexo’s staffing decisions, Senior Associate Vice President for Operations Alicia Knight said then.

University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt said administrators “regularly seek input” from students. An unknown number of students received an online survey with questions about how much money they spend at on-campus and off-campus dining venues and their dining habits on weekdays and weekends.

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