Sodexo Works for Inclusivity and Diversity
Gabriela Cuapio – Contributor
Sodexo’s Marketing Manager Liz Floyd, said Sodexo, the new food service company on campus, is customer- focused and incorporating new ideas to prompt student engagement such as the “Food Inspired By You” series at Connecticut Hall.
“Food is such a big part of everybody’s day-to-day life. We don’t want to be just a dining hall,” said Floyd. “We want to be part of campus and student’s college experience.”
Food Inspired By You features a dish that represents the student’s heritage and includes brief facts about them; it was created after freshman student Vanessa Mangiafico reached out to the Sodexo team through Instagram requesting a dish that would represent her Italian and Venezuelan background.
Mangiafico said that as granddaughter of immigrant grandparents, keeping their heritage present is important.
“Food is a large focal point at all our family gatherings and it’s a way to remind ourselves where we came from,” Mangiafico said.
Sodexo team decided to create a traditional Venezuelan dish, Pabellon Criollo, which consists of rice, shredded beef in stew and stewed black beans.
“I’m extremely grateful that they took my comment and made it happen. They made me feel like a piece of my family and my home was brought with me to school,” Mangiafico said.
Floyd said they are trying to establish different programs to get students excited and make them feel like they all have a say in the service that they’re being provided.
“If there’s a student that has a certain association with a dish that triggers a certain memory for them, we want to be able to provide that for them and that’s the importance food brings,” said Floyd.
General Manager Tony DeLuca said that as a new provider, it’s important for them to find a balance of what the university is looking for.
“What we might think is a great fit for campus might not be right for the Southern community,” said DeLuca.
Since their arrival on campus, DeLuca and team have been engaged through social media marketing, joining student government web chats and providing students with surveys.
“We want there to be an open line of communication; we won’t know if something is wrong unless someone tells us,” DeLuca said. “It’s the open dialogues that makes us thrive.” Part of diversity efforts from Sodexo includes providing students with a wide range of different food options for everyone’s needs and preferences.
“Over 50 percent of our food is driven by healthy options,” said Executive Chef Mitchell Greene.
A research study published on February 2020 by Taylor and Francis Group showed that healthy eating habits have a positive effect on student’s academic performance.
Greene said they have worked to create new ideas for vegan and gluten-free options for students and help break stigmas some may have towards it.
“When some hear the word veganism or gluten they may say ‘it must be bland;’ that’s not the case,” said Greene.
Greene recalled a time when he made vegan ‘spaghetti and meatball’ using squash as spaghetti and soy based meatballs with vegan mozzarella cheese.
“I think all together, dishes have to look presentable, they have to be fresh,” he said. DeLuca said that parents have reached out to him asking for help guiding students through their dining needs on campus.
“I team students up with Chef Mitchell and we show them around the dining hall. We point out everything that they’re looking for,” DeLuca said. “At the end of the day we can’t make every single person happy every day; but if we can make the majority of them happy and make sure they have what they need, then that makes us happy.”