Sodexo has won a new contract to feed students on campus.Sodexo has won a new contract to feed students on campus. (Photo by Kenzie Greer)Mark Linn - Staff Writer

During the latest Board of Trustees meeting which took place in February, the Board voted to renew the contract with UAB’s food service provider, Sodexo.

While the details of the contract are still being worked out, Sodexo plans to expand and improve upon campus dining services with the help of student feedback.

Sodexo is a France-based international food and service company that serves facilities in 80 countries, ranging from universities and hospitals to prisons. It has been UAB’s food service provider since 2005.

Before Sodexo, dining options were restricted to the old Hill University Center, which had limited seating and cafeteria-style dining options.

Companies interested in serving as UAB’s food service provider were invited to submit proposals for how dining would be structured and improved under them. Only one other company besides Sodexo submitted a proposal to UAB. One of the future additions proposed by Sodexo to UAB is an expansion to the Commons on the Green.

“We are currently seeking approval from the Board to create an expansion to the Dining Commons and provide an environment that both meets the demand for future growth and provides formats that will appeal to our diverse students, faculty, staff, and visitors,” said Marc Booker, the executive director of Student Housing as well as the contract administrator for the food service contract.

Booker added that students would be involved in “every phase of development” of the expansion to the Commons and that campus dining was putting a significant emphasis on fresh, locally-sourced foods and expanded options for vegetarian and vegan students.

“[Currently], we don’t have enough healthy options. The only place we have that is somewhat healthy is the place in the BEC and it’s not that great,” said Information Systems major Macy Dofash, referring to the Zime restaurant in the Business-Engineering Complex. “We have Subway, but we can’t use our dining dollars and that is what I use to buy food when I’m there.”

Dofash said that it was easier to find lower-calorie options at the restaurants located in the old Hill University Center. She also wished to see cheaper options at newer locations such as Full Moon BBQ.
“Basically, more fresh healthy foods at a reasonable price would be a great option,” Dofash said.

Another focus of campus dining going forward will be increased student employment and internship opportunities. According to Sodexo, as of this year, 20 percent of campus dining employees are UAB students, up from eight percent in 2013. The company hopes this number will continue to increase to 25 percent next year.

“Just because we don’t have any current internships available doesn’t mean we’re not willing to explore opportunities for other students,” Booker said.

Another primary concern cited by Booker was Sodexo’s efforts to give back to the community. He said that this was one of the factors considered in the decision to retain Sodexo as UAB’s food service provider. Booker said that giving back to the community was one of the important factors in the decision to retain Sodexo as the food service provider.
He highlighted efforts to source regional food from across Alabama and the Southeast, as well as the Donor to Diner program, in which UAB students can donate meals from their meal plan to disadvantaged students. Five hundred meals were donated by and to UAB students this academic school year, according to Booker.

Another program Sodexo participates in is Magic City Harvest, a local charitable organization which works to recover perishable food and redistribute it to those in need.

“The other thing that we do that is one of our biggest sources of good will is we participate in magic city harvest,” Booker said. “Two times a day any reusable foods that could be re-purposed are put on a truck and carried around to the local food banks or missions or what have you to be reused and repurposed.”

Going forward, Booker said that working with students in continually improving dining options would be one of the top goals of UAB campus dining and Sodexo.

“We’re looking forward to the next ten years of our partnership with Sodexo and we’re excited about working with the students to provide a top notch quality, affordable expanded food service program here at UAB,” Booker said.