Photo by Luke Nankivell, photo editor
The perception exists that Sodexo works on a tiered food quality system, and Drake University’s food is at the lowest tier. However, regional Sodexo Manger Carla Carlson said this is not true and has never been true.
“We have been on this campus for a long time, and I have never heard of this tiered thing,” Carlson said. “We have been really in touch with students so we can understand what students want and what they mean.”
However, while the tier system does not exist at Drake, Student Services Senator-at-Large Ekta Haria, believes Sodexo does have a tier system.
“In fact, when I was talking to other schools that have Sodexo, they do have tiers, but (with Drake) being such a small campus, they do not offer the tier system,” Haria said.
Sodexo General Manager Dannie Crozier said the tier system does not exist at large schools, but food can vary based on school size.
“Often what you see when you are talking about the large state institutions, you may see more brands and if different means variety, it depends on what people perceived being better. Some of those things vary from account to account,” Crozier said.
Crozier said there is no way for students at Drake to pay more for better “quality” food. At the same time he questions what there is to improve.
“Chicken breast is chicken breast. It is the same chicken breast that Centro is going to order,” Crozier said.
Vice President of Business and Finance Deborah Newsom agrees with Crozier about the quality of the food.
“We would not tolerate or stand for food that was not of a good quality,” Newsom said.
While many have differing opinions of Sodexo food, many are unsatisfied.
“I mean it’s not horrible. It’s not the best … it’s adequate for the price,” said Paul Shay, a sophomore acting major.
Saiumamaheswari Saichellappa, a junior majoring in neuroscience, has no issues with the food itself but would like to see more variety.
“I just was hoping for more variety, I guess. It seems like it’s mostly the same things every day.”
Junior Chinese exchange student Qi Chem also voiced the need for variety but also addressed health concerns.
“(Hubbell) has many choices, but everyday it just repeat(s) the same food every day . . . many food(s) are high (in) calories, so it’s not very healthy, and we all get fatter,” Chem said.
Carlson says that she understands that eating the same food everyday can be monotonous, but she also said that quality differs from person to person. In a poll of fifty Drake Students picked at random, 68 percent of students described food quality as “average,” and 30 percent said “below average” while only two percent of students asked think the food is “above average.”
When the same 50 students were asked whether or not they would be open to an increase in price for higher quality food, 64 percent responded with “no.” Thirty-four percent would accept the price increase, while two percent was undecided.
However, according to Crozier there is no “absolute” way for students to pay more for “higher quality” food. Sodexo’s liaison to Drake, Caron Findlay, says that she has not heard students complain about food quality.
“I have not heard anything either. I think people know that I am the liaison, and I have not heard anything,” Findlay said .
Haria runs a Facebook page that allows students to voice their complaints on dining, and she interacts with Sodexo on a regular basis to address those issues.
“As shocking as it may sound, they are very receptive to whatever I am saying. They will listen – they will take it down. Their only problem is red tape. They are very slow in responding back because they have a lot of positions and they have to go through,” Haria said.
Haria has seen a second soup option added at Hubbell South and believes she can play a role in increasing food quality at Quad Creek Cafe.
“At Hubbell North (Quad), I feel the quality can be improved. That is because they subcontract this other company called ‘Hot Stuff’ for pizzas (and) burritos – those sections. Those sections need to be removed because they are not healthy, and they are not fresh enough . . . I have talked to Sodexo, and they said by the end of this year, they intend to not renew with Hot Stuff and instead just have their own brand of burrito and pizza.”
Haria believes that the basis for improving the dining hall food should not be based on tiers but simply the food itself.
“One thing they can work on is improving the food,” Haria said. “It is not necessarily calling it tier one, two, three or four, but improving it in general.”