The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Sodexo

By Ülvi Gitaliyev

The name itself fills our mouths with a taste of disgust. Sodexo has had a monopoly on the taste buds of a vast majority of Berea College, but what exactly is Sodexo and why does its food suck? In the final installment of our series on Berea Dining, we shall take a look at the company that is in charge of Berea Dining and the ways that it can be improved.

Founded in 1966 in France, Sodexo is an international food service company with over hundreds of thousands of employees all around the world. They serve food for hospitals, colleges, and most interestingly, private prisons. The last one will be a special focus of this article.

Sodexo Justice Services, a subsidiary of Sodexo focused on private prisons, has a less than perfect track record. In the UK, where they directly run private prisons, there have been incidents of babies dying, illegal strip searches of inmates, tortured prisoners, and more. Such a systemically callous approach to the human rights of prisoners should discredit any company’s reputation, but unfortunately, Sodexo continues to operate private prisons in multiple countries.

Sodexo has also been found to serve horse meat at some of its locations and based on the results of the Dining Reform Movement Survey and casual discussions with Berea College students, their food could certainly be more delicious and healthy. Personally, I have coined dining food as “minimally acceptable.” Now, I am not blaming dining students workers or staff for the quality of the food since I know they are given specific recipes to follow and in many cases, a shortage of workers is what leads to rushed or under quality meals.

There are three alternative methods by which Berea College can take to improve Berea Dining:

1. Improve Sodexo at Berea Dining

As we have seen, Sodexo as a company is full of issues, but some of those are specific to Berea Dining and with enough effort, could be overcome. The treatment of student and professional staff, which many workers have complained about, seems to be part of a workplace culture that must be changed. Adding more strict and regular quality checks on the food served would go a long way in decreasing cases of food poisoning. This would be the most straightforward way in which we can improve the quality of dining for both staff and students without uprooting the currently existing system.

2. A New Food Service Company

You would be surprised at how many other food service companies are guilty of the same things as Sodexo, but there are a few torches (pun intended) out there in the darkness. Bon Appétit Management Company, a U.S.-based food service company, has a mostly clean track record in terms of animal welfare and other issues important to Berea College students. They are employed by the Metropolitan Museum, University of Chicago, and as far as we can tell, no private prisons, which makes them a morally superior option

The main problems with a new food service would be the (likely) higher term bill and loss of benefits for current Sodexo staff, though the first issue can be partially solved by making dining optional for students.

3. A Berea College Food Service

The third and last option would be for Berea College to create its own food service from scratch. This option would take the most time and effort, but it would also solve most of the problems discussed above.

Berea College is one of the few colleges in the United States that has its own farm and, thanks to our rural positioning, getting food directly from local farmers is also an option. Of course, some food would still have to come outside of the region, but having control over what comes in is a benefit not available with the current dining system. Fresh and healthy foods directly from Appalachia would almost certainly see a sharp increase in the quality of Berea Dining food. This option also allows us to retain the current staff.

You can read Part I and II of our dining series here and here respectively.

3 responses to “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Sodexo”

  1. It would benefit Berea College to look at its supply chains in everything they do and outsource. It would be inconsistent for Berea College to give business to a company that provides services to private prisons. It would be inconsistent in that one would hope Berea College upholds racial justice principles in all they do, and the private prison industry is notoriously racist.

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