by Annaclare Splettstoeszer | Staff Writer
At the start of the 2021 spring semester, Sodexo announced that it was increasing all meal plans for the semester by two meals per week. This news came after Whitworth’s chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops petitioned in the fall for changes to Sodexo’s operations regarding the number of meals per week, worker advancement opportunities, creative freedom for chefs and equal pay for workers with disabilities.
The meal plan announcement was made on Sodexo’s Instagram account, as well as with a poster in the dining hall – both of which included messages such as, “You Spoke, We Listened” and “We’re giving you more of what you LOVE!”
Sodexo General Manager Megan Helm responded via email to questions about why Sodexo implemented changes.
“We had received a few comments that students would like more meals per week. With this year being a challenging one for everyone, Sodexo worked with the university [which] determined to give each student on a meal plan two additional meal swipes per week,” Helm said.
USAS responded to Sodexo’s announcement with an Instagram post of their own on their account about how Sodexo was promoting the change.
Captioned, “Sodexo doesn’t want to acknowledge the real reason they added swipes which is our student organizing,” the post utilized a side-by-side comparison of Sodexo’s public statement to the student body and of a letter that Sodexo sent to USAS. Dated Jan. 13, 2021, the letter was signed by Sodexo General Manager Megan Helm, Vice President of Finance and Administration Larry Probus and Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Rhosetta Rhodes.
The letter addressed USAS’s concerns, as raised through survey responses submitted by students and meetings with administration, and responded to each of the four demands made by USAS.
Regarding the increase in meals, the letter said that one main objective of the Fall 2020 meal plans was to provide additional flex dollars that could be used by students in the Pines Café.
The letter stated, “Given the challenges of the pandemic and the delay in opening the Pines Café, we acknowledge your concern about the reduced number of swipes, and we have decided to add an additional two meals per week to all meal plans for the Spring 2021 term at no additional cost to students.”
USAS Media Manager, sophomore Zach McGuckin, stated that he felt the letter was “dismissive” of USAS’s concerns. “In [the letter we received], it was pretty clearly stated that it was because of our campaign that they were adding these two swipes.”
McGuckin is one of the club members who felt the increased costs of meal plans and the removal of unlimited swipes at the beginning of the school year meant students with tight budgets had less cost-effective ways to dine on campus.
“Instead of giving us a flat rate of swipes like we had last year, we have a certain amount of swipes per week, which might sound like a good system, but the actual implications of that are pretty harmful to students,” McGuckin said.
Moving forward, USAS plans to continue to campaign on these issues.
“Even though we still have a long way to go before our demands are actually met, I think it’s a win,” McGuckin said.
To learn more about the two additional meals to all meal plans, log on to https://whitworthdining.sodexomyway.com and follow them on Instagram @whitworthdinning. To find out more about USAS efforts, follow them on Instagram @wu_usas.