What is Aramark?
In 1936, Davre Davidson, started selling peanuts from his car in Los Angeles. Today, Davidson has built a massive food, facilities, and uniform service that operates all over the U.S., in institutions ranging from schools and universities to prisons. While Aramark takes pride in its "excellence" and promotes policies such as a ‘commitment to cage-free shell eggs’ and an ‘animal welfare policy’, it also has a reputation for its many scandals – from ‘maggot-infested food’ to controversial labour practices and contracting policies. So what really goes on in the den of this corporate behemoth, and how does it affect NYU students?
Some of the controversies
As a national corporation, Aramark has made its mark in many states, and not just in positive ways. Secret contracts, as in the case of Georgia in 2000, when the Atlanta Board of Education continued to work with Aramark, disregarding the poor food quality and unmet standards. Then in 2002, the company agreed to settle with Illinois school districts for $3.1 million in response to a lawsuit about the alleged failure to reduce fees. In 2008, Aramark was cited for failure to provide sufficient volumes of food in Michigan. The list goes on and on, for these account for only a small portion of contracting controversies. Overall, the company has been a cause for debate over the years, due to it being a source of distress to both employees and clients.
The on-going fight between IEC and The NYU administration
Aramark is currently the main provider of dining hall food at NYU. And needless to say, it has caused some controversies with the university as well as with its other clients. In February 2018, a racially insensitive meal was served in Downstein during Black History month. Featuring ribs, collard greens, mac and cheese, watermelon flavoured water and Kool-Aid, it played into certain stereotypes associated with the black community, causing an outrage on social media and eventually resulting in the firing of the head chef. University President Andrew Hamilton also issued a formal apology, yet failed to mention actual changes.
During the fall 2018 semester, members of the IEC (Incarceration to Education Coalition) of NYU took things into their own hands, fiercely protesting Aramark’s engagement with the university on the Kimmel (NYU's student center) steps. On Monday, December 3rd, the members conducted a 155-hour strike in an attempt to stop the renewal of NYU's contract with the company. The strike garnered widespread support on social media by students and faculty alike. "How do you spell racist? N-Y-U!" chanted the participants, relentlessly fighting for their cause. NYU threatened to revoke housing and financial aid from the students involved, and yet they persisted for almost a week, demanding the university to switch to self-catering (following the example of UCLA) and the creation of a new committee.
What will happen next?
The protest proved to be effective, as the NYU administration eventually agreed to meet some of the demands of the IEC on December 9th, 2018. However, even with the newly formed committee and online petition, the university refused to make any changes to the bidding process for the new food provider.
As of March 25th, 2018, the news is that Aramark will no longer be NYU's food provider, according to Washington Square News — a victory for the passionate students. It is likely that Food Compass will be replacing Aramark as the new food provider, although this remains unconfirmed.