Opinion: UAlbany Needs to Replace Sodexo
Sodexo is currently responsible for most of the food services at UAlbany. Sodexo is one of the food service industry’s global giants, operating in over 80 nations. With Sodexo’s expansion from its creation in 1966 came its frequent involvement in a multitude of lawsuits and controversies —those which in and of themselves challenge the core values of UAlbany.
In 2013, Sodexo replaced Chartwell, another foodservice industry giant, after the expiration of its 10 year contract with Ualbany. However, this wasn’t Sodexo’s first time working with UAlbany as Sodexo had first worked with UAlbany prior to 2003. According to an Albany Student Press article from April 7, 2000, Tae Mae Monahan wrote, “Five students have confirmed cases of E. coli…after eating in the Indian Quad cafeteria last week.” Aside from the outbreak itself, the very fact that UAlbany does not have a one strike policy in this regard is alarming. Sodexo ultimately was replaced due to a spur of student protests that same year, mentioned in an Albany Student Press article published back in Feb 2015.
This same company would somehow again be partnered with UAlbany in 2013 after incurring a more developed incident report during its absence from UAlbany. Sodexo, since then, has created a portfolio of ethical and legal violations, several of which frequently threaten the safety and integrity of its own employees and consumers. According to Osha.gov, on Aug. 16, 2012 OSHA “cited Sodexho Inc. with safety and health violations – 12 of them serious – found while maintenance workers removed asbestos at Alderson-Broaddus College” and fined them $81,000.
Andrew M. Cuomo, then the New York State attorney general, “announced…a $20 million settlement with food services provider Sodexo for overcharging 21 New York school districts as well as the SUNY system” on July 21, 2010. In this, it’s quite easy to see that Sodexo has revealed its true colors time and time again, prioritizing a profit margin at the expense of its own customers and employees. What is not so quite clear is why Sodexo was re-adopted by UAlbany, and why it seems as though a national collection of incidents was not factored into this decision.
Sodexo did not undergo any moral or structural metamorphosis between 2003 and 2013 in stealing from the SUNY system or facilitating oversights in worker safety. Sodexo did more harm than good in its first round with UAlbany in the early 2000’s. There is nothing to suggest this second partnership will elicit anything but feelings of regret.
UAlbany needs to prioritize the wellbeing of its students over its deeply embedded partnership with Sodexo. It reclaimed its partnership with UAlbany in 2013, and according to The Guardian, “Sodexo announced…that it was withdrawing all frozen beef products across most of its business [In the UK] following the discovery of horse DNA in one of the samples it had tested.” So it is beyond my comprehension as to why the administration at UAlbany would deem Sodexo fit to facilitate the dietary well being of UAlbany students. Especially when it is fully apparent that Sodexo is unable to prioritize the nutrition of its student over other corporate and budgetary agendas. Why did this not raise eyebrows in our university’s administration? Because it should have.
Sodexo hides behind the smiles of actors on ads and picture-perfect avocados that can only be found on poster in the cafeteria. Sodexo’s involvement with UAlbany is a catastrophe waiting to happen. Thus it is certainly in the greater interest of UAlbany to be on the side of caution and replace Sodexo.