Sodexo must move beyond change in name only

April 17, 2015

Much has been written about Sodexo’s inability to provide good-tasting, healthy food. It is true that they have made some progress, or at least that they have tried to convince us that they have. By hosting theme nights, like their recent Harry Potter dinners at Lower Usdan and Sherman, they have created an impression that they are trying and that we should be appreciative. These dinners, while a change of pace, are no better, no healthier and no more creative than usual. Brandeis students are spending thousands of dollars each year to eat over-salted collard greens, overcooked and flavorless chicken and soggy Greek salads. Sodexo, and the Brandeis administration, need to stop taking advantage of the student body’s inability to eat anywhere else and provide some long-overdue upgrades to our meal-plans.

Providing food for as many students as Sodexo does cannot be an easy task, and their workers clearly work hard to feed us. It is not the fault of the chefs who work behind the counters at Usdan and Sherman that the ingredients they are provided are not good, or that the recipes they use are lacking in any kind of spice or flavoring. They are not the ones to blame for the miserable food that we are all forced to spend thousands of dollars on. There are, however, people whose job it is to advocate for the students, and these people are either completely ignoring the situation at hand or are just incapable of asking Sodexo for better quality food.

At the recent Harry Potter theme night, which had been advertised just like all the other equally disappointing theme nights, students arrived to find the same, sad food as usual, but could at least be consoled by the maroon napkins that were left at random places in the dining hall. There was a cake, but because it could not be cut until 30 minutes before closing, most students did not get the chance to eat it. Spending time and money on these theme nights that provide neither better food nor a more interesting atmosphere is a waste of energy that would be better spent on providing decent food on a regular basis.

There are some simple fixes that Sodexo could work on to make its dining a little bit less depressing. Lower Usdan should use its grill, and not just for Curritos. Like Sherman, they should use the grill to provide students with grilled chicken, vegetables and tofu. They should make use of all of their stations, instead of opening some up only on random days to serve popcorn or tiny portions of salad. They should find a way to accommodate the flood of students that come in during lunch and have to walk laps around Usdan trying to find a seat. They need to find a way to provide their customers with a product that is, at the very least, satisfying. This is not a lot to ask from Sodexo and from Brandeis.

Having tasteless, fattening food is not an uncommon complaint among college students. Brandeis students are not asking for all organic food or an unreasonable variety of food, but we do deserve decent food. We deserve to eat food that tastes good—or at least not bad, options that are healthy enough to give us the energy we need to be successful. We deserve to have administrators that are accountable and considerate of our needs. Brandeis is an incredibly expensive and well-regarded institution, and it should learn to take the needs of its students into account instead of just taking our money and giving us nothing to show for it.

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