After only being at (and eating at) RPI for three months, I have begun to notice that the food here is not quite to the level it should be. The issue I am bringing up here is not the common complaint that the food is horrible (yet it is rarely amazing), but changes could be made, specifically concerning the logistics and economics of feeding students. This is a concern that may not be considered as often as actual quality of the food, but I feel it is important. I believe that it may very well be in Rensselaer’s best interest to completely drop Sodexo as their food provider.
One might think that by having a large and experienced company like Sodexo run food operations for RPI, as it does at over 9,000 other North American sites (a large group of which are colleges and universities), it would result in a very positive outcome, but this may not be the case. By having Sodexo on campus, RPI houses hundreds of workers that do not work directly for the institution. These workers have experienced many issues in recent history, including a failed 2010 unionization attempt, and this semester alone have been attempting to bring awareness to the subpar treatment they receive from their France-based employer. If Sodexo were to be removed from campus, it would be unlikely that the positions of these workers would go away. There would still be a demand for food operations workers even in the ideal situation where the Institute took over this aspect of student life, and they would in all likelihood be improved.
RPI’s outsourcing of food operations also leads to the outsourcing of the multimillion dollar business associated with it to an international for-profit corporation. However, in the process of doing this, Sodexo makes money, a lot of money, off of the claimed “15 million consumers served daily.” In fact, in 2011 alone, their profits broke the $600 million mark, and you can bet that a small chunk of those profits or the profits from the years following came out of the pockets of RPI students’ families. These statistics alone may not raise red flags, but then you must consider that Sodexo was caught and fined for using bad business practices. An investigation by the New York attorney general led to fines in excess of $20 million for the overcharging of 21 New York school districts and the entire SUNY system for food services between 2004 and 2009. Beyond overcharging its patrons, Sodexo was also choosing food supply contracts based on which ones would yield the highest cash-rebate instead of highest quality. Sodexo should not have been looking to save money so drastically while operating so far above cost. While RPI was never named as a specific location where these fraudulent practices were taking place, it is hard to believe they were localized events. Based upon RPI meal plan prices for the 2013-14 academic year, Sodexo meals at the four dining halls come down to between $7.50 and $12. So do you feel that the meals you receive are worth the price you pay, or is Sodexo running off with your money? Do you agree that RPI should seek to replace Sodexo with an in-house food supply organization?