Aramark grants RAs off-campus food options

Carrie George

For eight weeks of the semester, resident assistants have struggled to balance budgets and schedules working under the policies of Dining Services’ new partnership with Aramark.

Vice President for Student Affairs Shay Little said she talks regularly to the Aramark vice president for the region.

“I have communicated a number of concerns with operations,” Little said. “Catering is an example of one.”

Little said she has set out a number of other expectations for improving the partnership between Kent and Aramark.

One such improvement comes from a new agreement between Kent Interhall Council and Dining Services.

After a month and a half of quiet negotiations regarding the new preferred vendors policy, Residence Services received permission to purchase food from off-campus vendors.

On Friday, Oct. 20, resident assistants across campus received an email from Kevin Mowers, the director of Residence Life.

According to the email, Kent Interhall Council and Dining Services have worked together to develop and agree upon a proposal that will alter the current policy that prohibits the use of university money to buy food off campus.

“Effective immediately, Residence Services is allowed to use off campus vendors for community events,” Mowers wrote in his email. “Kent Interhall Council will continue to use Dining Services for major events.”

John McDermott, the director of programming for Kent Interhall Council, said this year all Residence Services staff members have had to order food directly through Dining Services. Previously, staff members could use university money to purchase food off campus.

“A big part about what our office does is we strive to plan programs that bring the community together,” McDermott said. “Food is a big part of these events.”

Up until the new Kent Interhall Council proposal, resident assistants have had a more difficult time planning events and ordering food, said Katie Studnicha, a junior visual communication design major and resident assistant in Centennial Court D.

“I’m very excited about it. I feel like it’s going to make things a lot easier,” Studnicha said. “They basically told us it’s the same as last year.”

Studnicha, a second-year resident assistant, said she used to have more flexibility and variety when planning food for programs.

“If nobody wants to eat the food that (Dining Services) is providing, then people aren’t going to come,” Studnicha said. “People come for (Insomnia Cookies), they come for Hungry Howie’s, they come for Chipotle.”

Sam McCray, a sophomore environmental conservation biology major and resident assistant in Leebrick Hall, said food on campus is more expensive.

“Some kids are so low on meal plan — like way below where they’re supposed to be — because they have to spend the money on this stupid expensive food,” McCray said.

While the price of food on campus has increased, the Hall Council budgets, which provide resident assistants money for programs, have stayed the same, McCray said.

McDermott said the price of on-campus food has proved a problem for resident assistants.

“On-campus food is priced for convenience,” McDermott said. “When you’re buying for 50 to 100 residents, that can cause quite a hurdle.”

McCray also said ordering food from Dining Services takes more time. Resident assistants must place their food orders weeks in advance, then go to Dining Services and pick up the food themselves.

“I had an RA friend who was late to her own event because they didn’t have her food ready,” McCray said.

Studnicha said many resident assistants have complained to their supervisors about the complications involved with food purchasing this semester, but she did not expect the policy to change.

Ivy McCombs, a freshman English major and Kent Interhall Council representative for Johnson Hall, said that a proposal between Residence Services and Dining Services has been in the works for awhile.

“We had an open forum with Dining Services and Residence Services, and a lot of students, including RAs, were very upset,” McCombs said.

This open forum took place three days before Residence Services received permission to buy food off campus.

“Now with the new (agreement) that’s enacted, it’s a lot easier to plan events,” McCombs said. “It gives RAs more control.”

McDermott said the proposal granting Residence Services free rein on food purchasing will only last until the end of the academic year.

Carrie George is the administration and diversity reporter. Contact her at [email protected].