Letter to the Editor published in The Brunswickan (Fredericton), 1 October 2003
As someone who is new to UNB, I find it strange that students and staff have little choice when it comes to healthy, affordable food. Why has this university handed over such an essential service to the private sector?
It may be common to privatize food services in the Maritimes, but I know that other Sodexho operations offer more choice than Harvey’s, Pizza Pizza, and Mr. Submarine. Come on. This is insulting to the health and the intelligence of the university community. Slightly better food may be available in a handful of campus buildings, but the overall problem remains the same. UNB has contracted food services to a for-profit corporation, with no connection to the people of Fredericton and little concern for the health and well-being of the student body.
Other universities offer university-run food services as well as student-run operations. This brings in revenue for the institution and the student union. That is the idea behind having a Student Union Building. To provide a forum for discussion and action, and to provide affordable services and decent jobs for students.
The mythology about privatized services being ‘cheaper’ or ‘more efficient’ is crap. A profit margin exceeding 15% and an inflated bureaucracy remove any savings to students. Further, privatized services are rarely unionized, providing low wages, few benefits, and no job security for food-service workers. The fast-food sector is notorious for union busting.
We’re getting a raw deal from Sodexho on all accounts.
I think a priority of our university should be to put an end to this farce and practice what it preaches. Are we ‘Making a Significant Difference’ by following the flock and signing a deal with Sodexho? Are we ‘Making a Significant Difference’ by gouging students with escalating tuition barriers and then gouging them again at the cafeteria? Are we ‘Making a Significant Difference’ by putting corporate profits ahead of the health and well-being of students? Is this truly an environment conducive to creative, intelligent learning and discourse?
Now, I’m a historian rather than a nutritional expert. But even I know that Harvey’s and Pizza Pizza can hardly be considered ‘Brain Food.’ ‘Brain Food’ has been processed as little as possible between the producer and the consumer, not shipped across four continents over a span of 14 months. ‘Brain Food’ is heavy in fresh vegetables, whole grains, and alternative sources of protein, not soaked in lard.
Why not provide students with good food rather than junk food so they can think clearly and live healthy during their time in school? Sodexho has failed in this task. Its raison d’etre is to transfer money – and a lot of it – from students to shareholders. UNB should cut its losses, and tell this company that it is no longer welcome here.