Chartwells will be Barnard’s new food service provider, Chief Operating Officer Rob Goldberg announced in an email sent to students on Thursday morning. Chartwells is a division of Compass Group, one of the largest food service companies in the world.
As Barnard’s food service provider, Chartwells will be in charge of staffing, setting menus, and serving food at all of Barnard’s dining locations. According to Goldberg, the partnership will also involve working with Chartwells to revamp menus and address issues of food insecurity—as well as conduct renovations to Barnard’s dining facilities, including a complete renovation of Hewitt Dining Hall to be completed by fall of 2020.
The announcement that the college will not renew its contract with Aramark, its current and controversial food service provider, comes after a student symbolic boycott and petition—which garnered over 1000 signatures—urging the college to cut ties with the provider last November. In the protests, activists cited ethical concerns over Aramark’s past scandals and allegations of misconduct, including involvement with private prisons and serving maggot-contaminated food to prisoners.
Barnard’s shift from Aramark to Chartwells mirrors that of New York University, who announced its switch to the same provider in March following similar student protests over Aramark’s prison involvement and a racially stereotypical meal for Black History Month in February 2018.
The selection of a new food service provider was conducted by a joint student-administrative search committee headed by Goldberg, in collaboration with boutique consultancy JGL Foodservice Consultants. In addition to the student protests, the committee solicited student feedback during a town hall town hall hosted by Student Government Association’s Food Advisory Board in October and a feedback form sent to all students.
“Students outlining what they wanted in dining and the future of Barnard really influenced how we shaped our [decision],” Goldberg said in an interview with Spectator.
According to Goldberg, student concern over involvement in the private prison industry and allegations of prisoner mistreatment prompted the search committee to take the ethical conduct of potential food service providers into consideration in the process.
“[Involvement with the prison industry] is an issue we raised with all vendors, knowing what had come up from our student population,” he said. “We’re very comfortable that Chartwells has a commitment to social responsibility.”
Chartwells does not have any contracts with correctional facilities in the United States. Its parent company Compass Group, however, formerly owned Trinity Food Services, a group that provided service to local, state, and federal jails and prisons, from which it divested in 2012. While Compass Group currently holds no ties to to federal or private prisons in the United States, it continues to operate in the correctional food service market in Canada.
Another prominent concern of student activists was whether the current Barnard dining staff, who are employed by Aramark, not Barnard, will keep their jobs after the transition. While the college has raised the issue with Chartwells, ultimate decisions about the rehiring of current Barnard dining staff will be undertaken by Chartwells itself.
Despite the shift, all meal plans will maintain the same structure for the coming year, though prices may be subject, Goldberg stated.