After Years of Student Organizing, Scripps Drops Sodexo

Kendall Lowery ’22
Food Columnist/Copy Editor

On May 15, Scripps President Lara Tiedens announced in an email that Scripps would not be renewing its dining services contract with Sodexo, the college’s dining service provider for over two decades. Bon Appétit, the current dining service provider at Pitzer College and Claremont McKenna College, will serve as Scripps’ provider effective July 1.

In her message to the Scripps community, Tiedens cited Bon Appétit’s socially responsible business practices, competitive financial proposal and high quality menu as key factors in the selection process. She also noted the impact of the global health pandemic. “Their thorough and advanced planning for dining changes necessitated by COVID-19 further secured their spot as the best choice for Scripps at this time,” said Tiedens.

The decision to switch dining contractors follows years of student organizing across the 5Cs led by the Scripps movement “Drop Sodexo,” whose recent efforts have included circulating a petition with over 1,000 signatures, participating in a national day of action for the Real Meals campaign and coordinating protests calling for Scripps to eliminate their contract with Sodexo. In Drop Sodexo’s most recent protest, students from across the 5Cs filled Balch Auditorium during Sodexo’s presentation vouching to renew their dining contract, asking Sodexo representatives tough questions and reiterating their demands to the Scripps administration.

This student push against Sodexo was fuelled by the corporation’s “ties to the 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,” said organizer Sophie Peters ’20 in an interview last fall with the Scripps Voice. “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.”

Drop Sodexo’s most recent demands were originally announced in a 2019 letter to President Tiedens and called on the college to select a dining service provider that would adhere to the following guidelines:

“a) procurement practices that are sustainable as well as socially and ethically responsible to minimize the college’s carbon footprint and other harmful effects on the environment. b) maintenance of all current Malott workers as well as a guarantee for a living wage and proper benefits such as paid sick days, retirement plans, and healthcare in accordance with the High Road workplace practices. c) a management system that responds to worker concerns. d) encouragement for all vendors to invest in their workers and the communities where they operate.”

Bon Appétit’s parent company, the Compass Group, has faced many of the same critiques as Sodexo. Compass is currently the largest contract foodservice company in the world and it continues to provide dining and vending services to prisons across North America.

“While Bon Appetit is not perfect, this decision is a step in the right direction — a step that would not have occurred without the generations of students who have organized around divestment from the prison industrial complex, environmental justice, and Scripps’ complicity by maintaining the Sodexo contract,” said Drop Sodexo organizers in a recent social media post.

“This was accomplished because of generations of student organizing,” said Drop Sodexo organizer Niyati Narang ’20. “I’m incredibly grateful to be a part of a community who cares so deeply about their school living by the values it teaches.”

Image Credit: Drop Sodexo WordPress