By Ramisha Farooq
In 2006, Ryerson’s administration quietly amended a contract with unpopular food services provider Aramark to cover up $5.6 million in losses.
The numbers were published in a Feb. 13 article in the Toronto Star, sparking confusion among students and faculty, and prompting an explanation from Julia Hanigsberg, vice-president administration and finance.
Two days after the Star published its findings, Hanigsberg released a statement acknowledging that ”the status quo is not acceptable” in terms of quality, but emphasized that Ryerson anticipated and budgeted for the steep cost of food services.
“I don’t know if students were informed [about the amendment to cover losses]. Certainly anyone who asked would have been told,” she told The Eyeopener.
The Star reported that the Hub Market Café, Ryerson’s largest eatery, posted $4.8 million in losses to the school along with another
$781,261 lost at the Pitman Hall cafeteria, according to numbers given to Ryerson Students’ Union President Rodney Diverlus in a letter from John Corallo, Ryerson’s director of University Business Services.
But Diverlus said the university shouldn’t be paying off an external company’s losses; it should be focusing that money on more student-run food services.
“So, we broke the story,” Diverlus told The Eyeopener Monday. ”We did it [because] … we knew that there’s a lot of sketchy things happening with Aramark.”
“We knew that we were always going to have losses in food services, there was no way of breaking even,” said Ryerson University President Sheldon Levy. “No matter who the provider is, [we knew] that there wasn’t enough revenue and profit from food services to cover the full costs of the way we were delivering food services with full-time [Ryerson] employees and having management structure.”
But in the face of what Hanigsberg called “an explosion of interest in the issue of food on our campus,” the university is in the process of developing criteria to search for improved food services for students.
While the administration studies its own survey results from the approximate 5,300 respondents, it will also consider the RSU-conducted questionnaire. According to the RSU, 63 per cent of students polled found Ryerson food services unaffordable and 50 per cent categorized it as low-quality.
“Pizza and wraps just don’t cut it,” read one RSU survey. “I would eat more on campus if the quality improved.”
“I hate having to go off campus to get food. It’s tiring, but right now I have no choice. The cafeterias are way too expensive,” said Hania Ahmed, a first-year student who commutes regularly to campus.
In an attempt to change the quality of food on campus, the students’ union put together different proposals for Ryerson Administration. The RSU’s main proposal has taken the form of a Good Food Co-Op – a not-for-profit, cooperatively owned food services alternative, brought forward by Andrew McAllister, the vice-president of operations at the union. Ryerson’s administration rejected the plan.
Aramark’s food services contract with Ryerson ends in May, and a Request For Proposals has yet to be issued by the school. Despite the upcoming deadline, Hanigsberg has said Ryerson will have a new food services agreement in place by summer 2013.