The university announced that the new dining contract has been awarded to Harvest Table Culinary Group, according to an email sent to community members on April 14. Starting in July 2022, the university’s dining food service vendor will no longer be Sodexo.
“Brandeis’ vision for the future of campus food service—food excellence, hospitality, collaboration, and sustainability—was directly shaped by the significant amount of feedback received throughout the process” wrote Lois Stanley—Vice President, Campus Planning and Operations—and Jeff Hershberger—Director of University Services in their email to community members.
The university’s decision on which group to award the contract to was narrowed down to five companies, according to a previous Brandeis Hoot article. The companies included: Harvest Table Culinary Group, Sodexo, Nexdine, AVI and Bon Appetit.
The search for a dining vendor spanned over the course of seven months, according to Stanley and Hershberg. During the course of the selection process, the university held stakeholder interviews in Fall 2021. Then vendor materials were posted to the university’s webpage for community members to review. The university launched a portal for feedback from community members after posting the vendor’s information and having them present to community members in person including food samples.
The vendor presentations were held for the final five companies, and according to Stanley and Hershberg were, “attended by hundreds of students, faculty, and staff.” From the feedback form the university had input from over 400 community members, according to Stanley and Hershberg, the majority of the responses were from students.
Harvest Table Culinary Group previously bid for the university’s dining contract back in 2020, according to a previous Hoot article. The university’s dining contract with Sodexo was originally intended to end at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the university offered Sodexo a two-year extension of their contract, according to the article.
According to Harvest Table’s executive summary from their dining bid, “[their] program is all about Brandeis. We’ve reviewed the Framework for the Future, traversed the campus, crunched the survey data and used some creative data-gathering to coalesce our proposal around these priorities that we believe match your needs: Elevated quality, variety and freshness, A more equitable food system, Programs by students, for students [and] Deep connections and community.”
According to the summary, the group is invested in the same core values as Uprooted and Rising—a movement fighting for a sustainable and equitable food system, according to their page. “[Harvest Group] joins Uprooted and Rising in their ’fight for a food system that nourishes us all,’” according to the executive summary.
Harvest group is owned by the parent company, Aramark. The university previously had a contract with Aramark, according to a post on The Hoot’s Facebook page. The university split from Aramark in 2013 and took up a dining contract with Sodexo, according to the post. Harvest Table is considered an “independent division” of Aramark allowing it to operate on more local levels, according to an article from Food Management.
According to the Dining Services Requests for Proposals (RFP) page, the contract with Harvest Table Culinary Group will not be signed until June 2022. Negotiations with the contract are to be held throughout April, according to the same timeline.
The Dining RFP committee involved in the selection process included: Kim Godsoe, Vice Provost, Academic Affairs, Ashna Kelkar, Student Union Senate Dining Committee Chair, Carol Osler, Chair, Brandeis Faculty Senate, Raymond Ou, Vice President, Student Affairs, Sam Solomon, Chief Financial Officer, Krupa Sourirajan, Student Union President, John Storti, Associate Vice President, Finance and Business and Stew Uretsky, Executive Vice President, Finance and Administration.