Food For Thought

As the end of Hamline’s contract with Aramark draws near, students met the committee reviewing proposals to share what they hope to see in the future of Hamline dining.
Food For Thought

Food advocates organized a town hall with the Request for Proposals (RFP) committee, bringing their concerns about campus dining directly to the decision makers for the next dining services contract.
Feed Your Brain (FYB), a student-run advocacy group for all campus food equity conflicts, hosted the town hall, ensuring that the committee would hear student perspectives ahead of finalizing a shortlist of proposed contracts. FYB leaders Matthew Maroney, AJ Escalante and Kaitlynn Fuller have held multiple open conversations platforming student concerns and conflicts with campus dining. On March 19, two days before the RFP committee town hall, FYB invited students to contribute to a list of student needs to be presented at the town hall.
The final document of student needs presented to the committee focuses on making dining more accessible, inclusive and consistent, including more options and an extension of hours for halal food, which are available for lunch and dinner during the weekdays. This issue, as well as dining hours ending at 7:30 with most options put away by 7, has only become more urgent since the start of Ramadan.
“We have to have extended hours during Ramadan,” Maroney said. “[Hamline] needs to meet students’ basic needs if they want the dining hall to be a place where community is fostered.”

Town Hall

The town hall event gave FYB and other concerned students the opportunity to hear directly from the committee for the first time. Staff members Ken Dehkes, Jen Olsen Krengel and Kelly Rudney were appointed to the committee, while students Hafsa Ahmed and Ollie Engstrom, as well as the faculty representative Patty Born Selly, were chosen after submitting applications to sit on the RFP committee. The committee is headed by Dean of Students Patti Klein-Kersten and Athletic Director Alex Focke.
Early in the event, Patty Born Selly expressed gratitude to FYB for organizing the event. Selly was adamant that representing student needs is integral to her contributions on the committee.
“This document [of student needs] feels to me to be super constructive,” Selly said at the town hall. “There’s a lot of really important points here that I think really informed my thinking just in the past however long we’ve been here. None of these things are outlandish.”
FYB leaders felt hopeful about the committee’s response to the document.
“To hear Patty Born [Selly] say that none of our requests were unreasonable felt good,” Fuller said. “They’re simple requests.”
Senior Hafsa Ahmed shared that her intentions as a representative are similarly to represent the needs of students, and the needs of the campus as well.
“I am taking into account all the things that not only Aramark has done but also what we really need as a campus. It feels really out of touch to have a dining hall the way it is right now. I am concerned about students’ concerns and opinions and also issues that really affect us as a student population,” Ahmed said.

RFP process

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In October, Kersten set in motion the RFP process, a process that now reaches a pivotal stage. On April 5, after reviewing all bids, the RFP committee will discuss and create a shortlist.
While many service providers have submitted bids for consideration, Kersten pointed out to attendees that it is “very likely” Aramark has submitted a bid proposal. FYB leadership in turn expressed awareness that Aramark is a contender for the new contract and that if they were selected the advocacy would continue.
“There is a possibility that Aramark continues to be our provider, and — not in a threatening way — I want you all to know that if that is the case, we will continue to be active students,” Maroney said at the town hall event. “We won’t shut up. We will do whatever we can to hold their feet to the fire, to hold Hamline’s feet to the fire and to make sure that we have a decent food system on campus.”

Correction: The halal food station is open for both lunch and dinner services Monday through Friday. Updated April 7, 2024. 

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