At Fort Lewis College, there is only one option for food. According to The Independent, FLC’s student news organization, the food-services company Sodexo has a contract with FLC until 2024.
Since first-year students are required to live on campus, they are forced to buy a Sodexo meal plan – and plans are not cheap. The smallest meal plan a student can purchase is 10 meals and $500 dining dollars, which can only be used on campus at the Sodexo dining facilities. This plan alone costs $2,112 per semester.
While Sodexo provides some outside options through its contracts with companies like Starbucks and Jamba Juice, students – particularly vegans or students with dietary restrictions – have few choices when it comes to spending their dining dollars. Diets become restricted to a monotonous cycle of vegan sushi, vegan noodle-soup bowls, trail-mix bars, fruit cups and black bean burgers.
In 2015, The Independent reported that Sodexo started a focus group to gather student input about the FLC dining experience. At that time, students expressed concerns about the campus food selection and the lack of accommodations for those with allergies and dietary restrictions.
Although the meal plan may be a great deal for students without dietary restrictions, it does not accommodate students with restrictions. The college and Sodexo need to recognize and accommodate students with specific dietary circumstances. Whether that is providing additional food options from local businesses like City Market, or creating another meal plan option that is more affordable – these needs must be recognized.
Sodexo’s monopoly proves an issue not only for the student meal plans, but also for student events. Registered student organizations are allowed a $50 budget to buy off-campus catering for special events, but after that, all food for events must be purchased through Sodexo.
A unique college town like Durango attracts a variety of students who all bring with them a diverse array of tastes, life choices and health issues. Simply put, Sodexo does not accommodate for dietary diversity.
Moreover, campus organizations are put in a financial crunch because they have to pay for Sodexo’s expensive catering services rather than buy cheaper Durango options. And when a student group is organizing an event, it wants to attract students – food is a good lure. However, these organizations need to be able to provide something that everyone will want to eat, and to do so without unnecessarily losing funds in attempt to promote their organization.
A solution for this monopolization could be for Sodexo to pair up with local businesses. This opportunity could bring a variety of options to fit the needs of all students on campus, while contributing and supporting Durango’s economy. Instead of money just going to Sodexo, a business based in France, the college and Sodexo could help support the local economy of the town that has supported FLC since 1956.
My proposition for Sodexo and FLC is to start recognizing the uniqueness of Durango and what its local businesses can do for Sodexo, FLC and the student body.
Carolyn Estes is a senior at Fort Lewis College and Mass Communications Major from Norman, Oklahoma. She is Associate Editor in Chief and Print Editor of The Independent, the FLC student news organization. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.