Barnard’s new dining provider, selected after student protests over Aramark’s connections to prison labor, has a more problematic history than it lets on.
Last year, student activist group Barnard No Aramark led protests calling for Barnard to cut ties with its then dining provider, Aramark, because of Aramark’s ties to private prisons. A yearlong selection process involving a hired consultancy, town halls, and SGA meetings led Barnard to choose Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services as its new dining provider.
However, Compass Group, Chartwells’ parent company and the largest catering firm in the world, has been criticized for abuses ranging from substandard services to vast corruption. Eurest Dining Services, another subsidiary of Compass, serves prisons in Canada and has been accused of exposing Ontario prisoners to listeria. Barnard Dining’s website says that Compass Group does not operate in any prisons in the United States – conveniently leaving out to the prisons it serves in other countries.
Compass Group is also heavily invested in military operations around the world. Eurest Support Services (ESS), a subsidiary of Eurest Dining Services, specializes in harsh dining environments like active war zones and mines. It has contracted with the US Army, including during the war in Iraq, and the United Nations.
Compass’s work with the UN led to a multi-billion dollar corruption scandal in the 2000s. ESS worked with disgraced U.N. official Alexander Yakovlev in order to get UN contracts in West Africa. Yakolev resigned and was charged with wire fraud and money laundering. Peter R. Harris, the then-CEO of Compass Group’s UK, Ireland, Middle East, and Africa department, was dismissed for “improper conduct” regarding the scandal. Bonus: Russian diplomat Vladimir Kuznetsov was also arrested and sentenced to prison after taking nearly $1 million in bribes from the Compass Group.
Then, in 2013, Compass Group admitted to unknowingly serving horse meat and pork in Europe, advertised as “beef burgers.” Testing on some meat products found that they contained as much as 100% horse meat. The presence of pork DNA had particular significance for Jewish and Muslim students who do not eat pork due to religious reasons.
Most recently, Chartwells K-12 settled a whistleblower lawsuit for $19.4 million with Washington D.C.’s school district in 2015. The lawsuit alleged that Chartwells fraudulently caused D.C. public schools to pay much more for its services than they should have, and that the food was often spoiled or low quality.
NYU replaced Aramark with Chartwells at the same time as Barnard last year following similar student protests. Barnard specifically cites Chartwells’ commitment to sustainability and corporate responsibility in its choice.
Image via Barnard Dining.
Update, 3:35 on September 30th 2019: A previous edition of this article incorrectly stated that Chartwells Higher Dining Services, not Chartwells K-12, was involved in the lawsuit.