Words by Mia Milosevic
Photographs by Paul Root
CCNY students let out a collective sign of relief after the college announced last week that the school will be parting ways with its current food service contractor, Centerplate. But even as students, faculty, and staff wait for better food services on campus, the change will leave many hungry. Starting March 22, the main student cafeteria, the faculty lounge, the Rotunda Café, and Marshak Café will all be closed for the remainder of the spring semester.
Centerplate has been supplying food to City College since the fall of 2017, but its service has long been the subject of critique. Students complain that on-campus food is sub-par, and in no way justifies its expensive price tag.
“More often than not, the surrounding food businesses have options that are significantly better and way more affordable,” says Trevor Schlam, a sonic arts major. “Cafe One takes way better care of our students than the NAC Cafeteria does.”
Despite the complaints, Centerplate made no real attempt to adjust its services, so the college’s Auxiliary Enterprises Corporation (AEC) cut the cord. “We’ve received a number of comments and concerns from students, faculty and staff regarding the quality and variety of food offerings by the contractor,” AEC admitted in an email to the community.
“Centerplate struggled to effectively respond to these customer service concerns, and sales declined,” AEC added, citing this as the reason for terminating the relationship with the outside contractor.
The AEC assured students that the University is reviewing a number of proposals from various food/cafeteria operators, but in the meantime, it is also exploring some more creative catering options. These include continuing to work with some of Centerplate’s vendors, bringing mobile food vendors onto the campus, and adding new vending machines to buildings across the campus.
“The AEC is partnering with Canteen, the nation’s largest food vending machine services company, to expand the number of vending machines across the campus. Expanded variety will include a selection of hot beverages, sandwiches, and healthy snacks,” the AEC stated. “In addition, we’ve notified Canteen that we are interested in becoming one of first CUNY campuses to host their new robotic frozen yogurt machines.”
With nowhere to eat on campus after March 22, the corporation suggested brown-bagging it. “The cafeteria will remain open and accessible to all students,” AEC explained. “Students should feel free to eat their home prepared or purchased food in the cafeteria.”
The sudden change, most likely the result of the college’s continuting financial crisis, has been met with confusion – and annoyance. “This seems like a weird move,” says Sabrina Cohen, an engineering student. “It’s like they’re trying to save money, but going about it in the most inconvenient way.”
Unfortunately, this is not the first time City College has found itself in this position. Before switching to Centerplate in 2017, the school had just hired new vendors in 2015. That year, the Metropolitan Food Service Inc., CCNY’s previous vendor, was dismissed due to terrible health violations, worker mistreatment, and ultimately, bad food.
Despite everything, not all City College students seem worried about the upcoming changes. Says Cohen: “As long as the Halal Guys are still around, I think we’ll be okay.”