Final public hearing on privatization of University of Kentucky's dining services

University of Kentucky Dining Services spent about $800,000 last year on Kentucky-grown food products.
University of Kentucky Dining Services spent about $800,000 last year on Kentucky-grown food products. Herald-Leader

The University of Kentucky will hold its third and final public forum on the possible privatization of its dining services from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the UK Student Center.

UK administrators have put the issue of privatization on the table because the university needs millions of dollars in new dining facilities that could be provided by a national food service company.

A request for proposal, or RFP, was released last month and contained several requirements for prospective bidders: that any new company would keep current UK dining employees, continue UK's current purchasing of local food and expand healthier food options.

The RFP also required any bidder to provide $25 million to $50 million to build new dining facilities to match the residence halls now under construction.

The company also would be required to continue UK Dining partnerships with the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

However, questions about employee benefits remain.

The Sodexo corporation, for example, provides dining services to colleges and universities around the country, including the University of Louisville and Berea College. In Vermont, a lawmaker has called for an investigation of Sodexo because of its plans to cut benefits for some employees at the University of Vermont by changing the definition of who works full-time under the Affordable Care Act, the Burlington Free Press reported last month.

If UK outsources dining, current full-time UK employees would receive UK benefits, said UK spokesman Jay Blanton. Employees hired by a business partner would be subject to that company's rules, he said.

Reviews of proposals will begin in mid-November by a committee made up of faculty, staff and students. The final decision about whether to outsource food services will be made by President Eli Capilouto.

"As a result of this dialogue, we've listened and we've made improvements to our process, which will lead to a better result no matter which direction we take," said Eric Monday, UK's executive vice president for finance and administration. "Our ultimate goal, though, has remained consistent throughout the process: creating the best possible dining service for our campus community and others who use this critical service."

Public forum on UK Dining Services

When: 5-7 p.m. Nov. 6

Where: Worsham Theater, UK Student Center

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