Fort Lewis College has been paired with Sodexo since the 1980s and has seen various changes during those times.
Because of the many changes, FLC and Sodexo are holding a food focus group to help cater to the students’ changing needs, Jill Weigert, director of the Student Union, said.
“We get action items and actually work on them” Weigert said.
Sodexo wants to help cater to students, but can only do that if students come to them in the first place, Weigert said.
These meetings will be held once a month in the dining hall starting January 2018 and are free for the student body to attend, Weigert said.
FLC is obligated to direct students to its services, Ian Fullinwider, student vice president, said.
However, the school is attempting to give students more freedom with the food focus group and by allowing RSOs to spend $50 for off-campus food, Weigert said.
This is the second year that RSOs and other organizations have been allowed the $50 allotment, Mark Mastalski, director of the Leadership Center, said.
“Certainly you can use non-Sodexo food on campus,” Ian Fullinwider, student vice president, said.
To accept food donations for any on-campus event, an RSO needs to fill out a form found on FLC’s website, Fullinwider said.
“We started with fifty dollars,” Weigert said, “but we didn't have anyone ask for more. But that doesn't mean we can't increase it. We just haven't looked into it yet.”
Allie Boom, a member of the FLC choir, feels that the $50 budget is not enough. The choir is planning to travel to Germany next semester for a performance tour, and would like to raise money for the trip through bake sales and performances, she said.
The choir department has had trouble keeping their costs down for fundraising, Boom said. Without the ability to hold their own events with their own food, it’s been difficult to fundraise for the trip, she said
Another way to get non-Sodexo food on campus is to purchase it with RSO members’ own personal funds, Fullinwider said.
Sodexo has been partnered with FLC since the late 1980s, Weigert said. In 2009, she helped renegotiate a 15 year contract with Sodexo, securing Sodexo as the on-campus meal provider until 2024.
FLC’s contract with Sodexo is typical - just about every college around the United States that Sodexo deals with has a deal very similar to FLC’s, Gina Rios, the general manager of Sodexo at FLC said.
Wiegert said she thinks a lot of students are misinformed about the part Sodexo plays on campus.
Sodexo seeks partners to provide food for specific colleges around the United States, Wiegert said.
Both Starbucks in Berndt Hall and Jamba Juice in the Student Union are provided through Sodexo, Wiegert said. These companies are partnered with Sodexo and are allowed to come to campus because of that, she said.
“I think this partnership with Sodexo opens more doors than it closes,” she said.
For FLC’s campus, it is hard to find a partner that is both student friendly and able to come to this location, Wiegert said.
Sodexo partners with restaurants to have them come to campuses, Gina Rios, Sodexo general manager, said. A lot of those partnered with Sodexo do not want to make the venture out here because of the isolation and size of the school, she said.
That is why Sodexo is actively searching for a more health-focused food provider to bring to campus, Weigert said.
As of October 2017, a new Colorado-based vendor has been seriously considering a place on campus and just needs a valid location to set up, she said. Weigert, who declined to name the vendor, said FLC hopes to see this distributor open on campus in the fall of 2018, she said.
Changing Student Needs
Students are eating differently than they used to, Rios said. Gluten free, vegan, and vegetarian needs are all commonplace in today’s student diets, and Sodexo has adjusted by providing various options in the dining hall, she said.
With the simple-servings option being added two years ago, students have greater access to healthier food, Weigert said.
Sodexo’s simple-servings options usually consist of a lean protein with vegetables and carbs and most of the time are gluten-free, Rios said.
Sodexo and FLC want to help students eat as healthy as they can, Weigert said. Even though they are not perfect, they want to get better, she said.
With new a vendor coming and Sodexo’s food focus group, it looks as if FLC will continue to have well-rounded food services for some time, Weigert said.