When it was announced last week that Aramark will be the private company taking over Purdue’s retail operations, response on social media was overwhelmingly negative.
Butler University student reaction to issues with campus food played at least a part in that university's decision to end its contract with Aramark last year, according to coverage by the student newspaper.
Purdue officials have not yet confirmed nor denied that Aramark won the contract, though that has been confirmed independently through University staff members.
Assistant Vice Provost for Student Life Barb Frazee declined to comment on the details of the contract Wednesday but said it will be discussed at Thursday's Board of Trustees meeting and details will be released Friday.
The Exponent has requested Aramark’s contract with both Purdue’s West Lafayette and Fort Wayne campuses but has not yet received either.
Butler’s News Content Manager Katie Grieze said via email that Bon Appetit has provided dining service for the university for about a year.
The Collegian, Butler’s student newspaper, reported last year on a series of incidents where students twice found bugs in their food and were served uncooked chicken.
Former Collegian editor-in-chief and journalism graduate Dana Lee said Aramark oversaw both residential and retail dining at Butler, though a few independent restaurants occupied space in an area of a university parking garage at one point.
When a student found a small, larvae-looking insect in their broccoli the first time, students were disgusted, but not that surprised, Lee said.
“I don’t think anyone was shocked,” she said this week.
“After that, Aramark made a series of changes," she said. "The same thing happened literally five months later.”
Another student later found his chicken nuggets were “pink and fleshy,” Lee said, which didn’t bode well for Chicken Nugget Night at Butler, something of a legend for students.
Students’ reactions ranged from repulsion to not being surprised at the latest incidents, and some students told student journalists they felt they weren’t getting the food they paid for.
The change was detailed in a story Lee wrote for the Collegian in February 2019.
“The move away from Aramark comes after a series of changes to Butler’s dining program in August, which were announced via an email,” the story reads. “Part of the plan included partnering with a national food service consultant to find a new dining service provider and reassess student meal plans.”
Lee noted that the problems students had with food from Aramark originated from the residential side of Butler’s dining experience. C-Club, a former market on campus that’s been replaced by Butler’s new dining partner, Bon Appetit, served considerably better food than the dining halls, though both were run by Aramark, Lee said.
Aramark has also made national news in the prison-food industry, another sector of its corporation. The Associated Press reported in 2015 that complaints of maggot-ridden food in an Ohio correctional facility contributed to Aramark being fined for its failure to keep to its contract.
The company provides a webpage full of facts and testimonials praising its work in correctional facility dining services. One quote is attributed to then-Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who privatized Indiana state’s prison food in 2005 to Aramark.
“In May 2005 the Indiana Department of Corrections announced $11.5 million in annual savings to our taxpayers by partnering with Aramark Correctional Services to manage the food service operations for the state’s correctional facilities,” Daniels said, per Aramark’s website. “The savings have grown over the past six years and is now approaching $75 million.”