As the time draws near to renew Bon Appétit’s contract, students are faced with the decision of whether or not to continue with Bon Appétit’s dining service or seek out a new company. This year has been riddled with controversy regarding Bon Appétit’s presence on campus, so weighing the pros and cons of keeping a consistent company will be important when making a decision. Here’s what our editors have to contribute to the discussion.
No choice but to improve what we already have
The conversations regarding Bon Apptit have lasted for the entire year. They’ve been talked about with friends, in public forums, on the comment card wall and on our pages. There have been grievances involving dietary restrictions, working conditions, misrepresentative labels, etc. These problems haven’t necessarily been fixed, but we have no other choice.
That being said, we can no longer focus on “finding someone new,” but improving what we already have.
I admit that for the past term, I’ve seen many improvements in the cafeteria. I’ve noticed more vegan and gluten-free options that are also better separated from other foods and I’ve come to enjoy more of the offerings as well. At the beginning of the term, I was especially impressed by the different food “events” and “programs” put on in the cafeteria.
Food is, however, only one part of the issue.
I can’t speak to working conditions, but judging from what I’ve heard from workers and students, improvements have to be made. Again, I’m limited in my scope of this particular issue, but the problems of this year can’t continue into the next.
People won’t forget about the problems from this past year. Next year, these issues will be looked at with even more scrutiny.
Frustrations with Bon Appétit invalid
I remember the days when I’d go to the caf, eager to find something healthy, and have only the option of spinach. If I wanted a healthy protein, I had to put in an order at the Grill and wait 20 minutes, or more on a busy night.
I’m impressed by the diversity of healthy foods that are now available to me, thanks to Bon Apptit. Dining Services has provided us with options, for the first time in my four years here. Most importantly, they’ve immersed themselves in the community. They adapted to the chaos and long hours of Flunk Day, and they’ve put on a show for Midnight Breakfast that I’ve only seen at Bat Mitzvahs.
They’re not perfect, but I’m more upset with my fellow students who’ve shifted focus from meaningful topics like sexual assault and racism to what kind of dessert is in the caf. It seems everyone’s jumped on the bandwagon, and not for valid reasons related to unionization, work conditions or allergies. Instead, students are angry that three swipes were deducted from their meal plan during Flunk Day. Had they done any research or paid attention before, they’d know that’s happened every single year.
It’s ok to not like Bon Apptit, and to be active in the community. But to the students who endlessly whine: I encourage you to do your research and find something better.
Bon Appétit already an improvement from past years
Should Bon Apptit stay or should it go?
As a graduating senior, I don’t pretend to speak for those who will eat in the cafeteria, swipe at the Grab n’ Go or munch on a fire starter at the Gizmo in years to come.
As a journalist who has reported on changes to Dining Services all year, I don’t pretend to have all the facts, either. Working conditions and safety concerns exist largely behind closed doors that I was unable to peer behind.
But as a student who has eaten almost every meal in the caf for four years, I will say unabashedly that I love the changes in the dining experience.
I don’t mean to dismiss the legitimacy of various complaints raised over the past year Ñ and I’m keenly aware of how fortunate I am to be free of dietary restrictions. However, I do a double-take every time someone complains about the quality of the food or glowers at the supposed lack of options.
Our food is fresher and presented in both greater quantity and variety than ever before. Just look at the number of food stations and compare them to last year’s. Gone are the days of rotating menus and frozen foods (popcorn shrimp every Friday, anyone?). Once, we were lucky to get berries on a Sunday; now, we complain when they don’t supply our favorite kind. Four years ago, that freshness and variety (not to mention sustainability) inspired a group of Knox students to seek a bid for Bon Apptit.
Next’s year’s contract does not impact me, so I’m not going to pass judgement. I am, however, going to thank everyone who has planned and prepared my meals this year. I am much healthier and more satisfied because of them.
Change from Bon Appétit unrealistic
When I returned from study abroad Winter Term, it took a while to navigate the new setup in the caf. However, I soon discovered that I liked the move away from a three week rotation of food and the greater variety of fruits and vegetables. As a person with no dietary restrictions, I have had few bad experiences with the food this year.
At the same time, I recognize with concern as students mention instances of food poisoning and mislabeling of foods. Bon Apptit and dining services have clearly made mistakes during the transition this year, but are they enough to warrant changing to a different corporation or head chef?
I’d say no. Starting new is always difficult, and I think it’s easy to call back to the past and say “I like the things the way they were before.” If we do start anew with a different provider, there will be changes that we won’t like and complications as a new staff learns how Knox operates. If we keep Bon Apptit, we can work with a staff that already has experience here.
Plus, let’s be realistic. The college has outdated dining facilities and Bon Apptit has the resources to build a better kitchen and dining area that students have been wanting for years. If we return to a head chef model, we will lose access to this resource.
That being said, this isn’t to say that signing an extended contract with Bon Apptit does not mean that we won’t continue to hold them accountable. Improvements need to be made, but I think the solution can be found in working with the people who are here instead of searching for an “anything but Bon Apptit.”
It’s time to explore other options
Thank you, Bon Apptit, it’s been an interesting year. It is now time to go.
From the mild transition that was made in Fall Term to the more drastic changes implemented throughout the remainder of the academic year, saying this has been a rollercoaster of a relationship would be an understatement. As someone who isn’t very picky and has very few allergies, I’m generally very easy-going about what choices are available in the cafeteria.
I am not, however, ignorant of the almost consistent protests, forums, and complaints that have come from my peers. It’s true that I don’t mind very much what I’m eating, but the fact that many of my colleagues are unable to be satisfactorily fed is concerning. From the BuzzFeed articles to the Senate-hosted and then underground forums, it seems as if the student body is exhausting all means possible to get the attention of not only Bon Apptit, but also this school’s own administration.
So, where are the changes?
Besides the shiny new “Nutrition Facts” poster hanging on the other side of the cafeteria, I still don’t see the requested labeling. Other than the response from the Student Senate Dining Services Committee, I haven’t heard anything in regard to charging student swipes for campus-wide events (regardless of whether or not students attended). In all of these instances, it seems clear that the administration does not have students’ best interests in mind. With these considered, I believe it’s time for Knox to reach out to other catering companies, once again, and perhaps find one that’s more willing to compromise. We are a small campus and care about one another; we focus on getting our food from local providers and eating sustainably. I understand that Bon Apptit also shares these values, but the company’s priorities are clearly not in line with our own, and an academic year’s-long relationship is sufficient time to prove it.