The Voice: Donaghey Hall Food Offers Exciting Change

The future of dining at UCA is quickly shaping up to bring more variety, healthier options and easier access for community members and students without a meal plan.

It’s about time the university started cutting the apron strings that Aramark has tightly wound around the campus for years.

Donaghey Hall will offer food and drinks independent of Aramark’s prior monopoly over campus food services, and UCA should be commended for inching away from the global corporation.

Although the wiggle room is minimal, it will still benefit students, faculty and the city of Conway. Now, anyone who works or lives close to campus, student or not, can dine somewhere within the UCA community where prices aren’t inflated.

Aramark has been a long-time partner with UCA, and understandably so. It is difficult to find a food vendor that meets the university’s needs, so options are limited—as expected. In fact, only one other vendor bid to be UCA’s primary food provider during Aramark’s contract renewal in 2012, and the Board of Trustees agreed Aramark’s offer was still best.

However, the renewed contract, which expires June 30, 2022, doesn’t specifically place Donaghey Hall under Aramark’s jurisdiction, because the idea hadn’t been developed yet. So, the UCA administration deserves extra kudos for not cutting them into the deal.

While Aramark might do its best to maintain such a far-reaching corporation, which according to its website has 218 locations in 38 states and conducts business in 21 countries, it is difficult to maintain high quality with such a large quantity of venues.

If nothing else, this is apparent in the food quality at the Christian Cafeteria. There may be fresh fruit and vegetable options at the salad bar, but anyone looking for something more substantial will have a hard time finding it without excessive amounts of oils, fats and salt added.

Aramark is quite separated from its customers as people, as many large companies come to be, and operating at such a corporate level turns normal people into dollar signs on a spreadsheet. A glance at Aramark’s contract with UCA shows that the company is out for every dime it can make on campus, even “non-state funded departmental parties, potlucks and private food donations.” Really, Aramark, are you that needy?

Benefits of non-Aramark food providers include a chance for higher-quality food, retailers that are more in touch with their customers and an environment that supports the local economy.

There is already a Conway-based and a Little Rock-based business signed up to open in Donaghey Hall.

Blue Sail Coffee, of Conway, offers ethically sourced, in-house roasted coffee. Uncle T’s Food Mart, of Little Rock, has been family owned and operated since 1955 when its premier location was Sunset, Arkansas.

Aramark serves a wide need on campus that is difficult to acquire while maintaining high-quality food, so UCA’s partnership with it is entirely logical. However, we have given Aramark control of the entire campus’ food production, and viewing new options on the horizon is a refreshing sight.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 9, 2015 print edition of The Echo.

image via campusdish.com

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