By Liz Trudel, News Editor
“We are sick of the lack of options and healthy choices on the USM Gorham campus,”
stated Cameron Labrie, a sophomore exercise science major.
Labrie facilitated a Change.org petition which accumulated 112 student-signatures, approximately eight percent of a residential community of 1,350, after it launched last saturday.
“We pay thousands of dollars a year for the same food everyday and the food does not meet the needs of those with allergies,” the petition stated. “We are sick of this lack of care for our hard earned money. We want a set up in Gorham closer to that of the Portland Campus.” The letter was signed, “The frustrated students of the University of Southern Maine.”
Labrie shared the petition across various social media platforms to get the attention of residential students.
“The consistent low quality food combined with the limited list of meal choices lead me to petition Sodexo,” stated Labrie. He added that meal selections on the Gorham campus are often repeated three to four times a week and hot meals are served within a time frame that fails to accommodate student athletes like himself. “This is frustrating because our meal swipes are being wasted and we aren’t being provided with a quality meal to eat,” he stated.
Additionally, Labrie would like Sodexo to cater to the needs of individuals with allergies as he believes there are scarce options offered to gluten-free students in particular.
Shortly after the petition was launched, Tadd Stone, the General Manager of Sodexo contacted Labrie via email and scheduled a meeting last Wednesday to address Labrie’s concerns with Gorham’s dining options.
“This is something that needs to be noticed. USM charges students $2,225 a semester for a meal plan that is very restrictive to students with allergies and other food sensitivities, such as myself,” said Ariana Wenger, a sophomore political science major. “Even students without allergies and food sensitivities become ill after eating the food provided by Sodexo.”
Sawyer Zundel, a first-year cyber security major said that he is satisfied with the meals he’s had for lunch and dinner so far. In terms of improvement, Zundel would like Sodexo to focus on the quality of the breakfast foods that are offered in Gorham.
“The pre-cooked sausage patties tend to be cold and soggy and the pre-cooked bacon has the consistency of cardboard,” said Zundel. Additionally, he would like Sodexo to offer more “made-to-order” options, similar to those of Portland.
“Sodexo will be working on improvements that include better variety, higher quality and many other aspects of the dining hall that will improve our dining experience,” Labrie posted as an update to his petition shortly after the meeting, titled, ‘Sodexo Listened.’
Stone expressed that Sodexo is committed to working with students to provide the options that they are looking for in the dining facilities across campus.
“As dining preferences are a very personal thing to an individual, the best way to drive changes in the program is to share feedback with us through one of our various means,” Stone said. “I strongly encourage students to get involved. Student voices are crucial to improving our performance.”
Stone added that Sodexo’s website, comment board inside the Gorham campus dining hall, and the virtual comment board are all great ways students can get engaged and to drive changes in the program. In addition, Sodexo has a Community Culinary Council that meets on the second Thursday of each month at 1 p.m. Meeting locations can be found on all of Sodexo’s digital boards, the company website, as well as in special event calendars.
Sodexo is a multi-billion dollar company that provides food for institutions in 80 countries, as stated on their website. The company was awarded a five year contract with the University of Maine System (UMS) which began on July 1, 2016. It pledged to locally source 25 to 30 percent of its food, while offering a $14 million infrastructure investment on the UMS campuses. The Portland Press Herald reported the investment will improve campus facilities, offer internships, and provide catering services to the UMS campuses.
**This article was edited on 10/11/18 to remove inaccurate information**