As many of you know Sodexo is the corporation which provides food services on Marquette’s campus. Before I go into detailing the massive problems with Sodexo as a corporation, I do want to point out that the cafeteria workers, and the managers at the cafeterias, work extremely hard and do the best that they can to provide the students with a pleasurable dining experience. This, however, does not prevent Sodexo from failing in every respect in providing a positive dining experience. The amount that students pay for their meal plans is not reflected in the food which is served to them. For example, students pay between $7 and $11 per swipe depending upon their meal plan, whereas someone coming off the street pays between $4.20 and $7.35 depending upon the meal which they consume, i.e. breakfast is cheaper than dinner. This reveals that the students are paying much more than needed, and that students are flat out getting ripped off when they pay $7 for breakfast, which for many consists of a bowl of cereal or a bagel. In the end, it makes financial sense for students to just buy the cheapest meal plan every semester, and then buy food, keep it in their rooms, and eat it there. This is particularly true for students who have food allergies, or who are vegetarian or vegan.
The cost of the meal plans cannot be blamed directly on Sodexo, particularly given that Marquette takes roughly 35% off the top from every meal plan. This means, quite obviously, that when a student pays $1540 for the block 125 plan, then Marquette gets $539 and Sodexo gets $1001. What exactly happens to the $1001, has never been revealed by Sodexo, and the Sodexo representatives at the Q&A session held on April 19, claimed that they did not know where the money went. This then means that it is likely that at least a portion of the money goes to Sodexo corporate, with the rest going to Sodexo Marquette. The money going to corporate helps to pay for the costs of running family friendly things like private prisons and detention centers for immigrants in the UK, Ireland, and Australia. The money which stays on campus is then split between paying for overhead, paying the wages of the employees (which average $12 on campus according to the head of Sodexo Marquette), and paying for the food which is served. One would think that the food would be the top priority and that Sodexo would do whatever it could to provide high quality food. This, however, is not the case, particularly given that the target per plate cost is under $2, meaning that if a student wants to get $11 worth of food, that student would have to eat six plates of food, which is clearly an extremely unhealthy thing to do every meal, regardless of the health content of the food being served. What is then created is a system where students rarely get anywhere close to their money’s worth in terms of food consumed. As such, the current system, as it is in place, is entirely flawed in regards to the cost of food served compared to the price to consume it.
As one can see, the money which Marquette students pay for their meal plans, does not create a product which is based upon a significant portion of that money, but rather comes from a small portion, while the rest is divided between on several levels. This then leads to the current situation where most students agree that the quality of product served is inferior to that which can be purchased for less money at local eating establishments. While Dan O’Shea, head of Sodexo Marquette, claims that the food is of equal, if not superior, quality, and that other places where students could purchase food have shorter hours of operation, which apparently impacts food quality and price, what he does not realize, is that he is in fact wrong on both points. First of all the majority of students do in fact prefer off campus dining locations, which is why the number of students eating in cafeterias, not including at the AMU, has declined in the past several years, and this is also the reason for the destination dining program, which is designed to replicate the most common eating establishments which students frequent, in order to convince them to eat on campus instead of eating off campus. In addition, the hours of operation for the majority of cafeterias are 7-6:30, and not all cafeterias are open on weekends either. The only cafeteria which is open 7-12:00 everyday is McCormick, and as such, the argument that Sodexo provides long hours of operation, is completely untrue.
One can thus see the faults of Sodexo on campus. Most of the money students pay does not go to paying for food. The food quality is generally considered to be inferior. Those who run Sodexo on campus create smokescreen statements in order to confuse students. As such, we as students must demand that Sodexo either reforms its ways or be removed from campus and replaced by a company which will actually work in the name of the students, and create a quality product at an affordable price.
by Jonathan Stepp