Nfld. & Labrador

MUN food quality improves, Aramark meal plan still not perfect: MUNSU

Public outcry from students of Memorial University of Newfoundland concerning undesirable, and in some cases uncooked meals, at the university's dining hall has resulted in change, according to the student union.

Aramark hiring new general manager

Students took to social media to display items served at Memorial University's dining hall, sparking change in food quality. (CBC)

Public outcry from students of Memorial University of Newfoundland concerning undesirable, and in some cases uncooked meals, at the university's dining hall has sparked change, according to the student union.

MUN's student union held separate meetings with the university, students and food provider Aramark to address concerns from students, who say their mandatory meals are sub-par.

We don't want just better food for the week  — we need this to be better food forever.- Robert Leamon, MUNSU

"Overall students feel less disgusted and a little more safe eating at the dining hall now," said MUNSU executive director of campaigns Robert Leamon. 

Based on feedback from residence student representatives, some issues — including food quality and health and safety issues — have been resolved, Leamon said.

Aramark, who is currently advertising for a new general manager for its operations at Memorial University, has the contract until 2018 with the possibility of renewal for a further five-year term.

Students 'trapped' in meal plan

The longer-term issue that needs to be addressed, Leamon said, involves the restricting nature of Aramark's mandatory food plans. 

"Students are trapped in a mandatory meal plan that often doesn't meet their needs," he said, citing student's inability to use food credits at other campus cafes. 

"Just a few years ago, students were able to purchase a 10-meal plan, but when Aramark came into play that minimum plan was removed and now the minimum plan is a 14-meal plan so students are forced into [a] more expensive plan."

​The next step for the student union is to keep Aramark to their word, Leamon said. 

"We continue to hold Aramark to the fire of these immediately changes, making sure these changes are not some sort of reaction to what just recently happened in the media, but rather a genuine shift and a sustained practice."

"We don't want just better food for the week  — we need this to be better food forever." 

'Corrective actions' taken

Memorial University said improvement has been made in food quality and communication between students, the university and Aramark.

"Aramark has been very responsive to recent concerns, and have increased their management, culinary presence and oversight at the Main Dining Hall," said Rex Coffin, director of ancillary operations at MUN.

"Their corporate chef was flown in to investigate concerns and implement improvements, many of which have already been implemented."

Coffin said students will be surveyed on food quality and a committee with student representation will be formed. 

Meanwhile, Aramark told CBC News it took "corrective actions with our staff who accept full accountability."

The company said it is confident the food concerns will be resolved, with "ongoing training that incorporates feedback we have received from students and the student union."