USM junior Jared Priest eats his Sunday lunch in the Fresh Food Company on campus. The SGA will be holding surveys outide the Fresh in the Thad Cochran Center as a part of a movement to hold the Fresh to higher quality standards. -Michael Kavitz
In a recent meeting of the Student Government Association Senate, Vice President Kyle Stoner brought forward an idea for a new piece of legislation that would hold Eagle Dining to a higher standard.
Eagle Dining, an institution run by private corporation Aramark, is the sole food service provider for The University of Southern Mississippi and is the driving force behind The Fresh Food Company, the cafeteria in Hillcrest and assorted food operations across campus.
Aramark, its mother company, extended the contract with the university to provide food service, employees and necessary equipment for both the Gulf Park and Hattiesburg campuses.
“This is the time to start and try to make a difference (in food quality),” Stoner said. “Students care about what they’re eating and where they’re eating.”
While the quality of the cafeteria food is a common complaint among college students, the senators argued that Southern Miss has a particular issue with Eagle Dining providing fresh, varied kinds of food that allow for a healthy, convenient living.
“Are they catering to the students or just catering to their pockets?” Stoner said.
SGA President Jeffrey George was also present at the meeting and spoke for University President Rodney Bennett. “It’s an issue that Dr. Bennett does know about and (he) is concerned about it,” George said.
“We do have a contract with Aramark that is through the next six or seven years. On the flipside, they are doing a lot of work to improve food options for athletic games.”
The debate continued, with people asking what the Senate’s options were and where its jurisdiction ended. The contract with Aramark, while it is through the university, dictates that the university – and consequentially SGA – has little sway in the day-to-day operations of Eagle Dining.
With these questions in mind, the Senate formed a special committee to follow up on these leads and dig into the heart of the matter. Its first step: to survey the students.
On Friday, Jan. 23, the committee met to discuss survey questions and prepare for the data collection. These committee members will take surveys at a table outside of the Fresh Food Company on varied Mondays, asking about the quality and freshness of the meal of each student.
Sen. Lakelyn Taylor, a member of this committee, said she thought the pending legislation was important because of potential recruitment. “Many prospective students come in and they’re looking for (a sense of home). For Southern Miss to be on a competitive recruitment level, we need to have quality food.”
Sen. Breanna Cheri said good food is a necessity for those who live on campus. “(The students) coming in (are) in a different environment and want to feel welcome and comfortable. Having those options makes the whole lifestyle easier,” she said. “When studying, I want a good meal.”
Sen. Aaliyah Cole brought up the new “Health is Golden” campaign that the university has been running, which is a program encouraging students to be healthy in all aspects of their lives through exercise and eating well.
“I feel that having quality food and healthy food sources supports (the program),” Cole said. “For me, when the Fresh has nothing I like, I usually resort to (more fattening) foods. Having healthy options in the Fresh that taste good would support the (new campaign).”
The Senate will continue to discuss this issue and the committee will soon conduct surveys during the lunch rush hour from noon to 2 p.m. on Mondays.