Progressive Student Union hosts forum about future of campus dining

Cavan Kharrazian spoke Wednesday at the Progressive Student Union's forum on the future of the University's dining program. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer
Cavan Kharrazian spoke Wednesday at the Progressive Student Union’s forum about the future of the University’s dining program. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer
This post was written by Hatchet reporter Sophie Kaplan.

The Progressive Student Union held a forum Wednesday to discuss the future of dining at GW, focusing on ways to create sustainable and healthy food options, lower food prices and improve conditions for workers.

The group also launched an online petition that has collected more than 260 signatures as of Thursday. The demands outlined in the petition include creating a swipe system for two meals a day, retaining all current union workers and creating work-study positions for students to research those goals.

Members of the Progressive Student Union said the petition will be delivered to Alicia Knight, GW’s senior associate vice president for operations, next Thursday in Rice Hall.

Miss the forum? Here are some highlights from the discussion.

1. Background

One student, Cecilia Contreras, summarized recent actions that administrators have taken regarding dining.

Sodexo fired two of its staffers in January, Contreras said, but GW has no power over Sodexo staffing decisions.

The Progressive Student Union demanded an open discussion between the University and students about the future of dining on campus. Sodexo’s contract with GW will expire next year.

“We are in control of who gets the contract in 2016. We have a lot of power,” Contreras said.

2. Workers’ point of view

The Progressive Student Union invited Armecia Banks, who has worked in dining at GW for more than 40 years, to share her experiences with students.

“When I first started, it was like a cafeteria in Thurston Hall. They had better food, more workers and good prices,” Banks said. “Within the years, they started laying people off. We are down to 60 workers and a few years ago it was 100.”

Banks said workers want Sodexo “to respect us.”

3. Real Food Challenge

Another student, Courtney Gabinetti, came to the forum to explain the mission of the Real Food Challenge.

Last spring, University President Steven Knapp signed the Real Food Challenge, pledging to make one-fifth of GW’s food sustainable by 2020.

“It is a national campaign among universities to capitalize on the power of youth and schools to create a healthy, fair and green food system,” she said.

Gabinetti added that students want transparency in the dining system, whether it’s being able to see the food cooked in front of them or by talking with the food service workers.

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