Thursday, October 18th, 2018

Sodexo brings healthy, local food to USM

Krysteana Scribner | The Free Press

Posted on November 12, 2016 in News
By USM Free Press

By Julie Pike

Sodexo, one of the world’s largest food companies, took over USM’s dining services as of July 1, 2016. Tadd Stone, Sodexo’s General Manager of Dining at USM, announced that Sodexo has committed to having 20 percent of its food be locally grown. Aramark, the previous food supplier for USM, was outbid by Sodexo to stay on at the school.

Sodexo will also be the food supplier for every other school in the University of Maine System, except for Orono. As stated in the Portland Press Herald back in February, Sodexo has a contract with the University of Maine System worth $12 million annually.

Sodexo was founded in 1966 by  French businessman Pierre Bellon. The company is also one of the world’s largest employers, providing a wide range of services other than food.

“It was a competitive decision to switch to Sodexo,” Stone said. “It came down to Sodexo’s plan to support local food vendors.”

Some of the various food vendors Sodexo has partnered with are Oakhurst and Central Maine Meats. Most of its produce is from local companies.

“We are proud of our partnership with local vendors,” Stone said.

Sodexo kicked off its first year at USM with a carnival in  Brooks Dining Hall on Sunday, August 28. Sodexo employees featured local vendors and had carnival games, such as fortune tellers and clowns, as a way to introduce Sodexo to students on campus.

While some things will remain the same in the dining halls on campus, such as the “International Station” as well at the “Stir-Fry Station,” Sodexo is implementing their own changes. There are two new entree lines featured in Brooks Dining Hall: the “Maine Course Station” and a line called “Simple Servings.”

The “Maine Course Station” includes items that are all produced or grown in Maine. “Simple Servings” is an entree line that uses food that is free of seven of the top eight allergens, excluding fish .

“Having allergy free stations was so important to us we made it the main entree station,” Stone Stated. “We want people to feel comfortable in our dining halls.”

Portland Pie will also continue to provide the dough used for pizza.

Sodexo has brought on two new positions as well, including a dietician that is available for all students with a meal plan. On the Gorham campus, a dietician is on staff for students who want advice on weight loss, weight gain or on how to deal with dietary restrictions. A marketing director was brought on as well to help promote Sodexo across campus.

“Sodexo is working hard to promote themselves across all campuses, with different events coming up during the month of September, such as a local vendor fair, and partnering with local farms in the dining hall,” Stone explained.

The changes Sodexo has implemented thus far have received mixed reviews from students. Bryhanah Esposito is mainly on campus in Portland and uses the meal exchange program there, which has experienced some changes as well. “Portland doesn’t offer nearly as many choices for the meal exchange program as Aramark did, I don’t feel as if I’m getting my money’s worth,” Esposito said.

Esposito is a vegetarian and claims that there are not as many options for vegetarians.“In Brooks Dining Hall, I often have to resort to eating a salad because most of the time there aren’t many other options for vegetarians,” Esposito said.

Madeline O’Hara also tested out Portland’s meal exchange program and agrees that there aren’t nearly as many options as last year. She also believes the quality of food in Portland isn’t as great as it used to be. Another student who was interviewed, Allison Burns, does not feel as if the food in Brooks Dining Hall is as good as it was last year with Aramark.

Other students, such as Gabrielle Perron, noted a positive change with Sodexo: “One big difference that I really appreciate is that all the food stations have the calorie amounts for what they’re making.” She feels that Brooks Dining Hall looks “cleaned up” and “a bit more organized and modernized.”

As the school year continues, Sodexo will continue to make an effort to promote itself on USM’s campus, keeping their promise to provide local food for students. This year will be a test for Sodexo to see if its changes are meeting the needs of the USM student body.


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