Not a fan of french fries

Ted Hamilton

What do some European prisons have in common with Kent State?

Their delicious cuisine.

The university currently – and for some time – has a contract with the food distributor Sodexho. The French corporation provides food to hundreds of schools and universities in the United States and throughout the world; the multinational company also provides food for many prisons in countries such as Australia, Italy, Portugal and others, according to

Sodexho’s dealings with prison systems across the world has sparked student protest at several universities around the country, but Kent State’s administrators still allow the company’s steel-toed boot to rest on Dining Services’ neck. In other words, Sodexho has a total monopoly of the food service on campus. There is no bidding or looking for a cheaper supplier; all managers must succumb and fold to the corporation’s will. There is no giving back to the community by buying from more local suppliers, and there is no money being saved because there is no competition (if I am incorrect, will someone please show me where the university is saving money, and I will apologize) – much like Coca-Cola’s drink monopoly, there are only Sodexho-distributed foods on campus.

Maybe more disturbing is that Sodexho also supplies food for a number of K-12 schools across the country. The same greasy fries, wilted lettuce and fat-filled burgers crowd the chow lines, contributing to the nation’s growing (no pun intended) obesity problem. Too many children in the United States already view the public schooling system as a prison; there is no need to reinforce the stereotype by allowing a multinational corporate giant that supplies food to so many prisons to monopolize school systems and colleges.

Of course if this was a private university, I would probably not be writing about Sodexho, but the fact is that as a public university, Kent State should be doing whatever it can to curb its spending. That does not mean giving presidents $70,000 bonuses or spending an exorbitant amount of money to send an administrator to get a degree from a different college. If public universities want to act like private universities, they should become private and (hopefully) more efficient.

As a libertarian and supporter of private schools, I was disgusted when I learned of George Washington University’s deal with Sodexho. According to a video on YouTube by Vice President Anthony Baumann of the GWU College Libertarians, his university requires freshman to spend $1,400 of their $3,400 food plan at on-campus Sodexho locations. Baumann calls it an “issue of practicality” and a rule that’s in place because the corporation does not “make enough money by doing a good business.”

It is surprising Sodexho’s shady business dealings (I will spare the company some face and not even bring up its hospital cleaning racket) have not been paraded in the Stater more often. As the watchdog of Kent State, it is the job of student media to keep the campus informed on matters involving the university – like when a company has its clawed hand around Dining Services’ collective neck, shaking it up and down to extract as much money from students as possible.

So there you have it. Do not blame the managers of Eastway Café, Stewart’s Café or Prentice Café for the food; blame the higher-ups for forcing them to order all of their food from a huge French monopoly that serves prisoners right along with students. In retrospect, we might enjoy the same food European prisoners do, but there is less of a chance of being shanked in the cafeterias.

Ted Hamilton is a senior magazine journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].