Western's Food Service Options: Ways To Participate in Shaping the Future

At Western, we are fortunate that our students, faculty and staff are committed to making a positive impact in the world, to living their values and seeing them reflected in the operations of the University.  Just as in our personal lives, determining which course of action to take as a community involves weighing the costs, benefits, and trade-offs among a complex and often competing set of priorities, values, practical considerations and limitations.  One of the areas of campus life that we will soon have an opportunity to consider in this light is Western’s Dining Services, as Western’s contract with Aramark comes to a close in September 2021.  As we prepare for the future of dining at Western, we will be looking for input from everyone who eats on campus about what matters most to them in food service, from cost to flavor, sustainable sourcing to social justice.  While it may be difficult to satisfy everyone’s priorities at once, our best chance of doing so will depend on widespread feedback from as many different voices on campus as possible.

In 2011, Western began a 10-year contract with Aramark to provide food service to the campus.  As we approach the conclusion of that contract in September of 2021, we have the opportunity to consider all our options.  Although 21 months seems like a long time, we have a lot to fit into that time frame.

University Dining includes our 3 residential dining commons, the campus cafes and markets—18 locations in all, as well as catering services.  We serve nearly 35,000 meals a week, and about 12,000 cups of coffee campus-wide.  University Dining, like all University Residences programs, is a self-sustaining program—it covers its own costs, including equipment, maintenance, and infrastructure, and doesn’t receive any university or state funding.  Dining connects with nearly everyone on campus—whether you have a meal plan, grab a bagel at lunchtime (more than 100,000 Bagelry bagels last year!), or have a regular coffee or tea spot as part of your routine.

As a first step in this assessment process, in June of 2019, Enrollment and Student Services commissioned a feasibility study from Envision Strategies to provide input on the pros and cons of contracted and self-operated dining systems.  You can review that report on the Dining Transitions website.  And from January through March of 2020, representatives from University Residences and Dining will be on the road around campus, presenting information and getting feedback from students about what’s most important to them in a new dining service.  There’ll be an online survey sent to all students, too, in case you can’t make it to a meeting.

The information that we obtain over the next few months will provide the context for making the decision for providing food service on campus beyond 2021.  Vice President Melynda Huskey will be leading that process, including engagement of students and other critical stakeholders.  We’ll keep you updated through Winter and Spring Quarters and into next academic year, as we continue to move forward.  If you’re interested, you’ll find more information on the Dining Transitions webpage.  And as always, feel free to reach out to Melynda Huskey with questions, concerns, or ideas; she’s at vpsa.office@wwu.edu.

Sabah Randhawa            Melynda Huskey

President                          Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services