Facts about Food Services

by julia.hanigsberg | February 15th, 2013

You may have read some recent articles in the Toronto Star about Ryerson’s food service contract. I would like to provide the community with some additional information and details about our food service operations and our commitment to improving food services at Ryerson.

At Ryerson, we do not expect to earn a profit from our food services. We do believe that food on our campus can help engage students and enable student success.

Many universities do earn a profit from food services – they have several conditions in common:

  1. a large residence population with a mandatory meal plan;
  2. a campus that is cloistered – separated from local amenities; and
  3. Food services workers who are employed by their food services provider, be it Aramark, Sodexo or Compass.

At Ryerson, we are different:

  1. We have a small residence population, not all of whom are required to sign-up for a meal plan;
  2. There is no division between our campus and the community that surrounds us, we are an integrated part of downtown Toronto. As a result, our students, staff and faculty have several hundred food options within a five minute walk of their offices, classrooms and study spaces; and
  3. Our food service workers are dedicated long-serving university-employees to whom we don’t want to pay minimum wage.

Due to these unique conditions at Ryerson, it is just is not possible to generate revenue from food services.

Our Current Food Services Contract

From 2007 to 2012, Ryerson experienced $5.6 million in food service costs — costs which were anticipated and budgeted for. These costs include food service operations, salaries, benefits and capital expenditures such as extensive renovations to our kitchens and cafes, on-going repairs, and the installation of new food service kiosks.

The university does provide a fee to Aramark to manage the university’s food services operation and that management fee includes the cost of having eight full-time Aramark Managers working on our campus to oversee day-to-day food operations.

The University’s food services costs also include employing 70 food services staff, represented by OPSEU, whose salary and benefits are paid by Ryerson.

We Are Listening

When it comes to food on Ryerson’s campus, we agree that the status quo is not acceptable.

We think the Student Campus Centre run Oakham Cafe is a great example of an alternative food service for Ryerson. Balzac’s Cafe on Gould St is another popular choice. We will continue to explore a range of alternatives at the right locations and at the right times and we’re grateful for the leadership of our students in making sure we are paying attention.

Earlier this year, Ryerson conducted a food survey that generated over 5,300 responses. To those who participated, we thank you.

We are also conducting a number of focus groups with students, and we are meeting with students and student groups, as well as interested faculty and staff, to identify ways of improving food on campus.

As a result of our on-going outreach to the community, we have heard that student-friendly prices, more and different variety and offering more local and sustainable food options are a priority and these priorities will be reflected in our new food services contract.

Moving Forward

The current food services contract is ending in May 2013.

This spring, Ryerson is issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for food services to identify a provider who can meet the needs and the priorities of our community.

The RFP process will be open and transparent. We want our RFP to elicit numerous, strong responses from a range of food service providers. A team, including staff, students and faculty, will evaluate the food service proposals we receive.

Ryerson will have a new food services agreement in place by summer 2013.

If you are interested in getting more involved please contact me directly at julia.hanigsberg@ryerson.ca.

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