Students Voice Concerns About Food Provider, Aramark


Rams Against Aramark is campaigning for the “complete severance” of Fordham’s cooperation with food provider Aramark. (Courtesy of Instagram)

Rams Against Aramark has continued their fight against the food provider Aramark for the 2021-22 academic school year. According to an Instagram post, Rams Against Aramark is a coalition of Fordham students who are advocating for the university to cut ties with Aramark due to the company’s labor practices, its ties to the prison systems and lack of environmental awareness.

The coalition first made their appearance on social media with a post on March 4, 2021, announcing their creation and goals. As written on their first Instagram post, “Rams Against Aramark is a group organized by the Social Innovation Collaboratory. Our mission is complete severance between Fordham University and Aramark Food Services on moral and ethical grounds.”

Fordham University’s relationship with Aramark began in 2016 after students petitioned against Sodexo, Fordham’s previous food provider. Aramark currently partners with more than 400 colleges and universities.

However, due to allegations of misconduct against Aramark, many schools, including New York University and Barnard College, decided to end their partnerships with the food provider.

Rams Against Aramark calls on Fordham to do the same and argues that Fordham’s partnership with Aramark does not uphold the university’s values.

According to the the university’s  Mission Statement, “Fordham is committed to research and education that assist in the alleviation of poverty, the promotion of justice, the protection of human rights and respect for the environment. Jesuit education is cosmopolitan education.”

Rams Against Aramark argues that Aramark violates human rights and respect for the environment by engaging in predatory contracts, refusing to pay a living wage, using prison labor, having contaminated groundwater and resisting environmental policy reforms. Rams Against Aramark wants to “sustain and advocate the university’s mission statement,” thus their first step is calling Fordham to cut ties with Aramark. Fordham University is, in fact, aware of both of these allegations and the coalition advocating for the end of the university’s partnership with the food provider.

Fordham University’s Dining Services contract liaison, Deming Yuan, responded to the allegations against Aramark.
According to Yuan, Aramark is one of the only food providers that is able to fill Fordham’s needs.

“It is challenging to find organizations that are large enough to handle us,” said Yuan.

According to Yuan, Fordham Dining Services provides 40,000 meals a week, in addition to 5,000 catering events a year and summer conferences. In response to the Aramark’s service in prisons, Yuan says that when Fordham started the request for proposals (RFP) process after ending their partnership with Sodexo, three food provider companies were willing to handle Fordham’s Dining Services.

“All of [those providers] have segments in their corporations that provide services to prisons, there is not one of them that does not,” said Yuan.

Although Aramark profits off the prison industrial complex, Yuan claims that the company has prison reform programs in place that help incarcerated people, including culinary and hospitality programs that provide skills for eligible prisoners and college credit to prisoners funded by Aramark.

During the 2018-2019 academic school year, Fordham administration, along with students advocating against Aramark, met with company executives for a prison segment.

“There is a prison business, the prison mishaps seem like singular mishaps that on sight managements at the prison may have had, but Aramark took care of them, they resolved it,” said Yuan.

Fordham administrators were left satisfied with this meeting. According to Yuan, Aramark is not responsible for any “mishaps” that occur in prisons.

“The prison system has added layers where Aramark is beholden to the specifications of the prison that the prison systems set,” said Yuan.

Another reason why Fordham continues to work with Aramark is because of employee benefits.“Part of the RFP process was that unionized employees at Fordham were facing a lot of challenges with their benefits, particularly around retirement benefits.
Aramark was the only company to come in and face that head on, resolve the issue and offer employees a better retirement package,” said Yuan.

Aramark also provides capital for investments at Fordham University, which means that many of the new installations at Fordham would not be possible without Aramark.

Yuan claims that  Fordham believes Aramark is a caring and ethical company and will continue to work with the company despite allegations of misconduct.