Aramark Canada to take over foodservices contract at Queen’s

Company linked to labour disputes and prison meal shortages

Aramark will provide food to three residence dining halls.

Students who access food services on campus in the fall term may notice a difference with what’s on their plates. 

Queen’s announced on May 13 that it had awarded its new foodservices management contract to Aramark Canada. The five-year contract begins July 1 and has the option of being renewed for an additional five years upon expiration. 

Following an open and competitive Request for Proposal (RFP) bidding process, Aramark’s proposal was approved by the Board of Trustees at its May 9 meeting. 

“Aramark was the top scoring proponent based on the rated criteria as outlined in the RFP, including retail concepts and operations structure, management and staffing details, and sustainability initiatives,” Leah Wales, executive director of housing and ancillary services, wrote in a statement to The Journal. “We are confident in Aramark’s ability to provide quality products and services.”

Aramark will provide food services to students, employees, and visitors at all three residence dining halls, 23 retail food service locations, catering services, and the Donald Gordon Hotel and Conference Centre.

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The contract provides the University with the ability to direct the overall food program and to access Aramark’s resources and expertise. The University’s contract with food services company Sodexo, which has worked with Queen’s for more than 30 years, expires June 30.

The majority of the 650 campus employees affected by the change are members of the CUPE Local 229 union, according to Wales, and will continue to work with Aramark in the upcoming year.

“Students and staff will see continued improvements in quality and diversity of food offerings, refreshed physical facilities, [and] a strong commitment to local food suppliers and wellness programs,” Wales added. “[This includes] our focus on health, quality food options, variety, cultural authenticity, meeting the needs of students with allergy and special dietary needs, vegetarian and vegan options and Fair Trade products.”

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Aramark has contracts with institutions around the world, serving nearly two billion meals a year. Its customers include more than 500 prisons and detention centres in the U.S., as well as universities across Canada, including Carleton, Dalhousie, and Wilfrid Laurier.

In recent years, the company has been involved in several labour disputes and have allegedly served prisoners rotten food, drastically cut portions to maximize profits, falsified records, practised price fixing, and used unhygienic practices.

The Michigan Department of Corrections fired Aramark around 18 months into its contract in 2015 following several alleged issues like meal shortages and maggots in the kitchen. 

Acknowledging Aramark’s ties to prisons, student activists across North America have tried to banish Aramark from their campuses. 

Students at New York University, for example, forced out Aramark through a campaign in 2019 that involved physical protests and the occupation of campus spaces. The Link, Concordia’s student-run newspaper, reported in March that a similar movement is taking place at Concordia, where students are building a campaign to replace Aramark when its contract expires in May 2022.

When The Journal inquired about the allegations against Aramark, Wales said the University has structures in place to ensure Aramark is “accountable to commitments in the contract and that quality standards established for ingredients, food production and service are consistently maintained.”

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