Campus looks for new food vendor

After deciding not to pursue a self-operated dining program, UW Oshkosh is preparing its search for a new food service program.

According to Executive Director for Campus Life Jean Kwaterski, University officials are in the process of developing a request for proposal, a document which outlines what the University is looking for from a food service and opens the door for proposals from outside vendors.

“The RFP will be released to all dining vendors in the nation, who will then respond with their proposals on how they would fulfill our needs for a dining and retail program at UW Oshkosh,” Kwaterski said.

According to Kwaterski, the University considered creating a self-operated dining program over the summer but decided against the idea for financial reasons.

“After completing research on the costs and additional human resources needed to self-operate the dining program on campus, the chancellor and vice chancellors agreed with University Dining that it wouldn’t be cost effective to pursue a self-operation dining program,” Kwaterski said.

Kwaterski said the document will reflect feedback collected from students on the University’s current dining program.
“Last spring, we conducted a variety of focus groups to gather feedback about dining on campus,” Kwaterski said. “We will use that information and feedback that we gather this fall to develop the RFP.”

Associate Director for Business and Retail Matt Suwalski said one of the University’s main goals is to offer a wider selection of meal options.

“We learned that students, faculty and staff want better quality and variety of food on campus including more fresh food and a bigger focus on dietary options,” Suwalski said. “Nutrition will be an area of focus in the future including better information sharing, easier tracking and more robust ingredient lists to help educate our students. Students want meal plans that meet their busy schedules and want the flexibility to choose how they eat on campus.”

Kwaterski said the University is also looking at solutions to make meal plans more user-friendly.
“One of the options we’re considering is an all-access meal plan, which means there wouldn’t be a limit on the number of meals per day or per meal period,” Kwaterski said. “We’re also trying to make the meal plans easier to understand and utilize.”

Sophomore Abby Shreve said she worries an all-access meal plan might inspire bad spending habits in students.
“I think a lot of issues could come from this,” Shreve said. “First of all, overspending would be a problem for many. I also think this guides freshmen to how much spending is a normal amount.”

Shreve said the University should instead remove limits on the meal plan selection for first-year students.
“I believe that freshmen should be allowed to purchase what we now call ultimate plans because they are all required to live on campus; therefore, they should be able to have a wide variety.”

The Ultimate meal plan gives students a set amount of meals which can be used any time throughout the semester and can be used at most on-campus dining locations. Basic and Deluxe plans, on the other hand, can only be used once per meal period and are only accepted at Blackhawk Commons, 2Go@BHC and Scotty’s Subs during the week and Reeve Union Marketplace on the weekends.

According to Kwaterski, students and faculty will receive and review proposals by a panel of students and faculty at the end of November.

“The evaluation team will include three students who will be appointed by the Oshkosh Student Association, the United Students in Residence Halls and the Reeve Advisory Council,” Kwaterski said.

Suwalski said the RFP process is a valuable opportunity for the University to adapt to the changing needs of the UWO community.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to continue to work with our students who will help select and shape the future of their food service program on campus,” Suwalski said. “We have a great opportunity to continue to do the things we are good at, including making sustainability an emphasis of our food service program and to be able to try new things to better meet the needs of our changing students, faculty and staff on campus.”