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Opinion: Belk Dining Hall Needs to Cut Ties with Aramark

Trigger warning: mention of disordered eating

Nutrients in the meals you eat help to sustain daily activities, protect your cells from environmental harm and repair any cellular damage that may occur. However, at Meredith’s Belk Dining Hall (BDH) it is almost impossible to maintain a nutritious and well-balanced diet.

Belk Dining Hall has many flaws such as student reports of insects and hair in the food. I understand that worms and flies can be sources of protein, but I don’t want to find them in my broccoli. In BDH’s defense, they are understaffed, and the average pay for the food service workers at Aramark—the company that runs BDH—is $10.64 per hour according to Payscale. It’s hard to keep flies and bugs out of the food when you’re the only staff member in your area.

There are simply not enough options in BDH. The gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan selections are incredibly limited, but even when it comes to food with no dietary limitations there are very few options. I came to Meredith on a vegetarian diet and now I am no longer able to live that lifestyle because of BDH.

I have yet to speak with a student who does not agree that the food is of poor quality. The meat, in particular, has made multiple of my friends sick.

A lack of good quality food can affect every part of life biologically. Your body will start to increase production of cortisol, leaving you stressed and “hangry.” It can also cause your metabolism to slow down, making it harder to gain or lose weight.

Since coming to Meredith, I’ve lost over 10 pounds. At first glance that may not seem like a problem, however, as someone who has struggled with an eating disorder their entire life, that is a dangerous and slippery slope. Many students, not just myself, struggle with this. So, how can Meredith fix these problems?

Meredith College has contracted its dining services, including BDH, the Food for Thought POD and the Beehive, with Aramark. Aramark calls itself “a leading global provider of food, facilities and uniform services to education, healthcare, business and industry and sports, leisure and corrections clients.”

Aramark does not have the cleanest reputation, including complaints and lawsuits from colleges and prisons across the United States. In fact, Meredith students petitioned the College to end their contract with Aramark in 2020.

In an article from the student newspaper at Loyola University Chicago, Griffin Krueger explains that students at this university also get sick after eating in the dining hall. There was even a recent uptick in gastrointestinal illness from the dining hall at Loyola. Aramark denied any responsibility. In an article written by Food Safety News, I found out that Aramark was investigated in a norovirus outbreak at Yosemite National Park, which spurred a federal investigation.

In February 2018, students at New York University dined in Weinstein Passport Dining Hall, operated by Aramark, and were served an insensitive meal of ribs, collard greens, Kool Aid, watermelon-flavored water and more to supposedly honor Black History Month.

In conclusion, I find Aramark to be a terrible company, and I have no idea why Meredith continues to utilize their services. In order to fix the problems at BDH, the dining hall needs more money and needs to cut ties with Aramark.

Representatives from Meredith Dining Services were unable to comment.

By Evelyn Summers, Staff Writer


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