Bon Appétit institutes more inclusivity and diversity in its food

However, student opinion still varies

Students+line+up+at+the+salad+bar+in+the+DC

Noah Nims

Students line up at the salad bar in the DC

Jenae McInnes, News Editor

As students returned to campus this fall, they were met with a very similar, but not quite the same DC. The decor on the walls was different, some of the stations had changed names, and the DC was open late serving Starbucks coffee. In May, amid mounting student complaints, Westmont announced the end of their 45 year partnership with Sodexo, the food service company that operated both the Dining Commons and Ritchie’s Place. In its place, Bon Appétit management company, a U.S. based food service with a more pronounced emphasis on sustainable sourcing and natural ingredients, was selected. However, the highly anticipated change in vendors didn’t seem to change all that much in the day-to-day experience of students eating in the DC.

Leon Darley —Bon Appétit’s general manager— affirmed that the company’s aim was not to drastically change the experience of the DC for students, “when we come into new places, especially at a place like Westmont … we’re not necessarily going into a place trying to stir the pot and change things, but instead what we do is we want to provide service doing it in the way that we do it … our practices are that we want to be able to provide the best quality, freshest food that is alive with flavor prepared in the simplest ways.” Many of the changes that have been made in the DC’s food are more subtle and behind the scenes, the main one being, Bon Appétit does not buy frozen vegetables and seeks partnerships with local farmers in what they call their “Farm to Fork” initiative, according to Darley. One example Darley highlighted is their partnership with a beef farmer in Fresno, “they do grass-fed beef … and we’re using that for all of our hamburger patties now and all of the beef you see is from our local farmer just up the road.” 

A concern raised by many students in the past is the degree of inclusivity of DC menu items for those with allergies, gluten intolerance and vegan or vegetarian diets. Darley stressed that Bon Appétit has made concrete changes in these areas, specifically for students with gluten intolerance. “In the past [with Sodexo], the corner where we have our gluten-free stuff, the cabinets were locked and students had to get a key, and we’ve kind of just eliminated that and we’re always keeping that stuff stocked,” according to Darley. He further added that this area should be open to all, even students who aren’t restricted by a gluten intolerance. 

Despite this stride towards inclusivity, Madison Huntington, a third-year student is still concerned about the effect that the DC’s options will have on students with dietary restrictions, “I am curious to know what efforts if any, are being made to reduce cross-contamination in the kitchen as ‘made without gluten containing ingredients’ means very little to the significant portion of Westmont students for whom not eating gluten is a matter of life or death if cross-contamination occurs.” However, Huntington is still hopeful that the DC “has an exciting new opportunity here to loop in a previously underserved student population: those with Celiac disease and gluten intolerance.” 

Additionally, for students with allergies within the group of the FDA’s nine major allergens, the Simply Oasis section of the DC, similar to Sodexo’s Simple Servings station, is free of all of the major allergens, and its equipment is kept separate from the other section’s equipment. Darley added that students with allergies outside of this grouping are eligible to work one-on-one with the kitchen to “make a diet that works with them and we make it in the back of the kitchen for them, specially prepare it.” 

The general body of Westmont students without dietary restrictions however, also have a large stake in the everyday options of the DC. Third-year Ryan Daedler expressed that there are several pros and cons to Bon Appétit’s takeover, “while I do believe the quality of food has increased, there are several factors that I miss from Sodexo such as a consistent international section.” He added, “while having the choccy milk dispenser is great, having it consistently empty is not optimal.” Darley reiterated that as the school year goes on, Bon Appétit will make incremental changes based on student feedback, “it’s a partnership [Westmont and Bon Appéttit] and we have to understand what the other wants and as we’re getting feedback from students about what they miss from Sodexo, or even what they want to see … we’re slowly over time making those changes and making those pivots that way we can try to do our food the best that we can.”

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