@Scripps

Drop it like it’s the Prison Industrial Complex: Drop Sodexo 2020

Kendall Lowery ’22
Sept. 26, Vol. XXIX, Issue 1

As the 2020 contract deadline deciding which dining service will be responsible for feeding Scripps students draws nearer, I reconnected with Sophie Peters ’20 and Niyati Narang ’20, two of the organizers of the movement to Drop Sodexo. Students within the movement have determined that Scripps’ current dining contract with Sodexo runs counter to the college’s core principles and are determined to shift the administration’s attitude towards the food it supplies to its students. This culminated in a protest last spring calling for administrative action; however, following a vague response from President Tiedens, Peters and Narang are gearing up for another year of advocacy for food justice. I talked with them about their experience within the movement, what has happened since President Tiedens’ response to the most recent protest and upcoming plans for Drop Sodexo.

Kendall Lowery (TSV)

In your own words, why should students want to Drop Sodexo?

Sophie Peters ’20 (SP) 

Some of the main reasons why we think that we should Drop Sodexo are its ties to big food industry, its past ownership and current operation of prisons around the world, its lack of sustainable and ethical sourcing, lack of labor rights, labor abuses, anti-union standpoints and environmental destruction around the world. So we think that as an institution that supposedly cares so much about a lot of these topics and teaches students about them… that we should be practicing what we preach and that our dining hall should reflect what the student body wants to see within a lot of these shared values.

TSV

Revisiting last semester’s protest, how do you feel that it affected the momentum of the movement?

SP

I think that we’ve been steadily building momentum! For the past few years, the amount of engagement has increased— I walk around campus and I hear people talking about Drop Sodexo who I have never met in my life. For the [SAS] elections last spring, nearly all the candidates mentioned Drop Sodexo because it’s an issue that has continually been talked about by Scripps students.

Niyati Narang ’20 (NN)

I would agree with that— I wasn’t there for the protest last semester, but in terms of general momentum I do feel like the conversation is very much a part of the headspace of the Scripps community, especially for returning students. I think that seeing the Drop Sodexo stickers on seniors’ grad caps at last year’s commencement showed that this is something that alumni, professors and the whole community cares about. Over the years, that has definitely grown and that’s really exciting.

SP

We even had family support during family weekend. We were flying outside of some events, and so many parents came up to us and supported us thinking that we had dropped Sodexo years ago; they hadn’t realized that the movement had continued, but they were excited about it.

TSV

Has Administration responded in any specific way besides confirmation of their continual deliberation about the 2020 contract change?

NN

We’re in general conversations with the administration about where in the process they are and about opening up opportunities for students to be made aware of what’s going on in that process. It’s a continuing dialogue, so we do what we can to gain as much access to that conversation as possible.

TSV

Niyati, with a new position as SAS President how have you and how are you planning to use your platform as a proponent of Drop Sodexo?

NN

Drop Sodexo is the first thing I talk about in every [monthly] meeting I have with President Tiedens… I also talked about Drop Sodexo in my welcome speech to the new students because that’s something I wanted them to be aware of. More than anything I think it’s just about using the platform I have to educate new students about what’s going on, to encourage people to come out to events that we’re having and to continue discussions that I have with Administration and particularly President Tiedens.

TSV

Have you had any contact with representatives from the actual Corporate body of Sodexo?

SP

None, other than folks who work at Malott. Many of the people who work at Malott are actually employed by Scripps, and we love them a lot. We really appreciate them and we hope that if management were to switch that everyone would continue to work here and be part of the community.

NN

First semester last year we had a worker appreciation potluck as well— professors and students and faculty brought in food and we had time to just chat with everyone in the Margaret Fowler Garden. 

SP

And as a movement we’ve always communicated any actions before they’ve been held to anyone who works in Malott beforehand.

TSV

For people who read this article and potentially aren’t already involved in the movement, are there specific first steps that you recommend for people who want to get involved?

SP

Yeah, so right now we are finally in the proposal part of the process, so the Request For Proposal (RFP) was released and several proposals have already submitted, but we are not allowed to see them, nor are we allowed to see the RFP. We know that the Dining Services and Advisory Committee has access to them, but they are not currently being released to the public and so we will be calling upon the administration for a release of those documents. Even if they don’t include the names of the competing corporations, we’re requesting that they include some of the answers to some questions, specifically concerning how these companies feel about prison involvement, ethical sourcing, labor rights, union rights, all of these things; we want to hear about those aspects before a decision is made. 

NN

We’re also hoping that the administration will create community forums in which they will discuss what contracts are on the table. The proposals will come in by October 3rd, and the finalists will be selected by November, so we’re hoping for at least one to two community forums before November or one or two in November. So we encourage Scripps community members to show up to those if or when they happen, and to have questions and concerns ready to be expressed to administration. Also if anyone is interested in doing any art for us, email dropsodexo@gmail.com

SP

The official transition to the new contract will take place between the end of spring semester and the beginning of Summer of 2020, so it’ll be decided by then for sure. Community engagement is so important in this step of the process—  it’s been wonderful to see the growing momentum over the years, but we need to keep that up and put pressure on the administration for transparency around this process and also for what we want to see within our dining hall.

NN

If students feel strongly about this, we encourage them to ask whatever administration they have conversations with to open up access in this way just because we think that this dialogue is really important at this stage.

 

Interested in getting involved? Follow Drop Sodexo on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/dropsodexo/ or join their contact list by emailing dropsodexo@gmail.com