Scripps drops Sodexo, announces Bon Appétit as new dining services provider

Students and faculty wearing "Drop Sodexo" signs walk out of a building.
Students walk out of Balch Auditorium after protesting a presentation by Sodexo on future plans Feb. 4. (Anna Choi • The Student Life)

Scripps College is dropping Sodexo as its dining services provider in favor of Bon Appétit Management Company, effective July 1.

President Lara Tiedens announced the change in an email to community members Friday.

“[Bon Appétit’s] high-quality menu, competitive financial proposal, and sustainable and socially responsible business practices impressed the [Dining Services Advisory Committee],” Tiedens said. “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.”

The decision marks a significant victory for student activists organizing as Drop Sodexo, who have rallied for the college to drop its contract with Sodexo for several years. The student group cites a slew of moral concerns, including the company’s investment and ownership of private prisons with a history of inhumane treatment

“This is a huge victory for students,” Niyati Narang SC ’20, a Drop Sodexo organizer and outgoing Scripps Associated Students president, told TSL via message. “This change would not have come without years of student organizing and I could not be prouder to be a part of this movement.”

Sodexo has provided food services for the college since 2000, Vice President for Business Affairs Dean Calvo said in an email in December. The college’s contract with the provider was set to expire in June.

Organizers declared victory on the Drop Sodexo Instagram page, calling the decision “a step in the right direction.” 

“Because of the student organizers’ presence and power, Scripps has been forced to listen to students’ concerns about the values of Sodexo,” the post says. 

Drop Sodexo’s work escalated along with the contract renewal process. 

In March 2019, more than 40 students turned out for a Drop Sodexo protest, and the group delivered a petition with more than 1,000 signatures to Tiedens. In February, about 50 students protested Sodexo’s presentation to the community as a contract finalist. Bon Appétit and SAGE Dining Services also gave presentations at the time.

Several Malott Dining Commons workers spoke at the presentation in support of Sodexo, urging the college to continue its contract with the provider.

“I don’t know about the prisons … but I know in California, they’re doing a good job here. [General Manager of Dining Services] Garrick [Hisamoto] especially, when he came on board, food’s different, everything’s different about it,” a Malott employee that TSL was unable to identify said. “We’re trying our hardest to do stuff for the students. I just hope they appreciate that because we’re really breaking our backs.” 

Students, including organizer Sophie Peters SC ’20, insisted that Drop Sodexo has always attempted to put workers first.

“We love the workers at Malott, and it’s always been at the forefront of our minds that we want the workers to stay, even though we want Sodexo to go,” Peters said in February. “Which is entirely possible because most of the workers, except for high management positions, are employed by Scripps and not Sodexo.” 

Dining hall employees are Scripps employees and are not at risk of losing their jobs due to a contract change, Calvo told TSL via email in February. 

Bon Appétit currently contracts with Pitzer College and Claremont McKenna College. 

Sodexo provides “limited services” to Harvey Mudd College’s Hoch-Shanahan Dining Commons, including food and supply procurement. 

Pomona College terminated its contract with Sodexo in 2011 in favor of operating its own dining services.

Drop Sodexo originally wanted Scripps to move to in-house management, like Pomona, but when the Scripps administration rejected the option, the organizers pivoted to advocate for “a company that aligns with our values as a movement and the values of the Scripps community,” Peters said in October 2019.

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