To acquire wisdom, one must observe

BLC begins talk of campaign in sustainable dining

The Brandeis Labor Coalition (BLC) partnered with Uprooted and Rising, a movement focused on the future of sustainability and nourishment of future generations by demanding food sovereignty—as described by its website. The two organizations plan to make a presentation on Brandeis’ potential to create a self-operated dining plan as opposed to outsourced dining like the university’s current dining contract with Sodexo.

This past Thursday, the BLC invited students—both members of the club and non-members—to listen to the potential of pushing for a sustainable dining plan. Roughly 54 students filled Schwartz 103 to watch the presentation given by Uprooted and Rising and create ideas for change they want to see on campus. 

Brandeis’ contract with Sodexo will expire in June 2020, and the university is currently accepting bids for alternative dining options. Sodexo was invited to reapply. Sodexo is a part of the “Big Three Corporations,” as described by representatives from Uprooted and Rising; the other two companies in this group are Aramark and Compass Group. In the United States, about 30 percent of institutions still operate on the self-dining model—the other 70 percent outsource their dining, which is controlled primarily by the “Big Three Corporations,” according to Uprooted and Rising representatives. 

These companies aren’t solely signing contracts with college campuses but with national parks, detention centers, prisons and hospitals, said Uprooted and Rising. 

“They are offered in a lot of different types of institutions, colleges and universities are their biggest segment and the place they make the most money,” said an Uprooted and Rising representative.

Globally, these institutions each make over $14 billion dollars in profit—Sodexo has the largest profit with $28 million dollars made, a figure which is larger than the amount the McDonald’s chain makes, according to Uprooted and Rising. 

These representatives said that companies like Sodexo, Aramark and Compass Group buy their food from large food companies like Tyson and Coca Cola, not local farms. This causes local farmers to lose their livelihood. In a video shown at the presentation, students witnessed this loss from first-hand accounts from farmers like the Barkers. Due to the “Big Three’s” immense power, they are able to lower prices which make it more difficult for smaller farms to compete, according to the representatives.

The BLC worked to create a list of campaign goals for what it would like to see in the new dining contract for the university next year. Students collectively made a list of desires that they had for the future contract: retention of current workers, a contract with local businesses, cheaper meal plans, healthier foods, diversity in options and a sustainable plan. Students also advocated for a long-lasting plan of self operated dining. Students noted that, seven years ago, the university did not have outsourced dining; rather, it ran on what was called Brandeis Dining. The dining contract, however, switched to Aramark and then to our current contract with Sodexo. Both contracts are made with companies that are part of the “Big Three Corporations.” Students are seeking to reestablish a contract similar to the one Brandeis had seven years ago with a larger focus on a longer contract. 

Students also noted they wanted the university to give more support to urban farms and local businesses in the area. One student mentioned the Waltham Fields Community Farm, which he said could potentially be a viable source of sustainable food.

Uprooted and Rising has relations across the country trying to push for sustainable dining. It is also planning to meet with other universities in the area, including Boston University and Northeastern University, regarding the switch from outsourced dining to self-operated dining, according to the representatives from Uprooted and Rising during the presentation.

In an interview with The Hoot after the meeting, Madeline Bisgyer ’20, one of the student coordinators of the event, spoke on behalf of BLC saying the event was “a chance to hear about the campaign and to see if there is interest on campus.” From the response of the crowd, Bisgyer said the BLC is excited to hear from more students to further build the campaign. 

The BLC has created a five-phase breakdown of their campaign. The first phase was establishing goals. Following meetings will include working on the other four phases: audience, narrative, tactics and capacity. 

There will be another meeting held this coming Monday at 5 p.m., with the location to be announced, to discuss further plans for this campaign.

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