University of Kentucky to outsource dining services

In the wake of much criticism and concern about job loss, the University of Kentucky is moving forward with its plan to privatize its dining services. Administration at the Lexington, Ky., school has been considering privatizing its dining services for the past two years with the goal of better serving the students on its ever-growing campus, The Lexington Herald Leader reported. The campus expects to house 21 percent more students in the fall of 2014 than it did in 2013, but it does not have the financial resources to manage dining services for that number of students.

As a result of the expected growth, the University put out an exploratory request for proposals that “required any bidder to provide $25 million to $50 million to build new dining facilities to match residence halls now under construction,” the Herald Leader reported. The idea is to have an outside vendor foot the bill for constructing new facilities and then have the University share in the revenue that the new food services would generate. Ultimately, saving taxpayers money.

However, the plan has been met with criticism. One point of contention comes Kentucky food advocates who worry that a large corporation will not utilize local farmers. Others worry that an outside vendor would bring its own employees and displace the students and staff that currently work in dining services.

However, as part of its request for proposal process, the University made several stipulations, including a commitment to buying local foods, job security for certain employees, and continued dining services employment opportunities for student workers.  Still, some students worry that a new vendor will bring lower pay and fewer benefits.

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