by Laura Dilley
MIT's current food service contractor, Aramark Corporation, is coming up for contract renewal with MIT in October. A committee composed of graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, and staff formed this past spring and has been meeting since early summer to study food services at MIT. Its goal is to come up with recommendations for the contract renewal which will benefit the MIT community at large. "I think that food service has a large impact on the quality of campus life," said Phil Bernard, Director of Residence and Campus Housing and Food Service Committee member. One of the aims of the committee is to attempt to provide recommendations which, if adopted, will positively affect campus life. In keeping with this goal, the committee is considering a variety of possible options. There are several: the Aramark contract could be renewed for five years; it could be reviewed provisionally for a year; or it could be denied in lieu of a different food service contractor, such as Marriott or DAKA, the two other major US campus food service corporations. The last and least likely possibility is to invite some competition onto the campus, so that a number of different independent contractors would service the MIT community at once. There is support from some students, staff, and faculty for the idea of opening up MIT Food Services to competition. "Hopefully, [a competitive food service] would be an environment where the diverse student food needs would be met as absolutely as possible-as well as the food service company making a profit: a win-win situation," Bernard said. MIT appears reluctant to introduce such a system. Health concerns and concerns about quality of food are two often-cited reasons. "There may be a sense that too many competitors would not create a coherent mission in food services," Bernard said. According to the results of the Student Life survey, taken last year, students are not satisfied with current food service offerings. It is unclear whether a change in food service contractors would increase student satisfaction with food services. Albert Hsu, a senior, feels that more attention is paid to student opinion around the time of contract renewal. "[Aramark] gets panicky when it gets close to contract renewal," Hsu said. “Maybe the contract cycle should be only two years.” The current contract cycle is five years. Other student groups are pleased with the level of responsiveness to their concerns. A number of vegetarian offerings were recently added to the menu at many locations on campus, according to Matt Krom, graduate student and member of the MIT Vegetarian Support Group. "We're really pleased with how we’ve been received by food services," Krom said. Other concerned student groups include Baker dormitory residents and residents of other dorms which have in the past had a dining hall. The committee is looking into the feasibility of re-opening some or all residence hall dining facilities. Recommendations from the Food Service Committee are expected to be made in late September or early October.