By Kayla Perry, Editor-in-Chief
A petition which has been circulated online calls for the removal of the mandatory meal plans from Laurentian University. The petition also asks for a new food services provider for campus.
Created by Chris Hilborn, a third-year ADVL student, and officially titled “Stop Mandatory Meal Plans or Get Rid of Aramark at Laurentian University,” the petition has gained 259 signatures, at the time of writing.
Hilborn, who is currently residing in an LUL Residence, created the petition on Nov. 16, as a place for members of the Laurentian community to voice their opinions, before Laurentian’s food service provider contract expires (at which point Aramark’s contract can be renewed, or another provider can be selected).
“In my first and second year, I noticed a lot of negativity on UMentioned, and was heavily against the food that was being served (at Laurentian) by Aramark. I sat on their food panel, (as) they had a committee for voicing opinions, and I felt that my opinion was never heard. In my third year, I still saw the UMentioned posts, and I chose to make a more formal document to express everybody’s concerns,” said Hilborn.
According to Hilborn, the main goal of the petition is to abolish the mandatory meal plans which are enforced in the LUL Residences.
“I believe we shouldn’t have mandatory meal plans in residence, simply because East, West, SSR and UC all have cooking facilities, so people can go out and buy their own groceries and make their own food.”
Ben Demianiuk, Director of Housing and Food Services at Laurentian, became aware of the petition not long after the URL was posted on various Facebook pages, and sat down with Hilborn to discuss his concerns.
“I did meet with (Chris) to understand what concerns (he) was having. We had a great discussion, and a lot of the issues were operational in nature, so I did talk to the food services team and have made a number of changes already,” said Demianiuk in regards to the petition.
Demianiuk also noted that Laurentian put forward a Request for Proposals (RFP) in August of this year, as the current Aramark contract is set to expire in May of 2016, and although a new food services provider has not yet been selected, the process of selecting the next food service provider has been underway for quite some time.
“It’s been a process that we’ve been working on for about two and a half years… Through that process we’ve had a number of different consultation sessions, focus groups, surveys, and a whole bunch of different things,” said Demianiuk, who also stated that students, staff and faculty members have been involved in every step of the process thus far.
After gathering the feedback from the Laurentian community, Demianiuk and members of Laurentian administration drafted a lengthy document, outlining what Laurentian is “expecting” in terms of the next food services provider, which was part of the RFP.
This included expectations surrounding services, student-friendly options, vegetarian options, and vegan options.
Demianiuk also stated that although the imposition of the mandatory/residential meal plans for the LUL Residences was a “hybrid” creation between Laurentian administration and Aramark, the meal plans “will remain,” although “what it will look like going forward” with the next contract is unknown. This may mean changes to the types of meal plan options which are available, or even changes in pricing.
In terms of finalizing the selection for the next food services contract, Demianiuk said there will be something to report around mid-to-late February of this year, when a selection has been made.
Demianiuk encouraged students who would like to provide feedback on current Laurentian food services, or who have comments concerning what they would like to see in the future, to contact him at BDemianiuk@laurentian.ca, or to contact SGA President Johnny Humphrey, who was involved with drafting the RFP document.