4 • Jan. 4, 2012 • Issue 15 • Volume 145
UNB food provider tries their best to buy local, manager says Heather Uhl Staff Reporter
A group of students eating at McConnell Hall. Andrew Meade / The Brunswickan
Sodexo provides more than 14,000 meals a week at UNB Fredericton. Those meals are made from scratch. “About the only thing that comes already prepared would be tomato soup,” Martin Bayliss, general manager for Sodexo at UNB, said. “We buy Campbell’s tomato soup. We buy Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup. Everything else is made from scratch.” Sodexo at UNB is primarily supplied by Sysco Canada, specifically the Moncton location, and other Sysco sources in New Brunswick.Sysco is one of the largest food suppliers in North America and the majority of their products are not produced locally. Other Sodexo suppliers are Peter’s Seafood, located on the North side of Fredericton, and Fresh Choice, a local produce company. “Whenever they can, our suppliers source out local for us and let us know so we can purchase it. Sometimes it’s more expensive but it’s the right thing to do,” Bayliss said. “This fall we were able to purchase all New Brunswick tomatoes because they were available.” The food is transported either fresh or frozen and is then prepared by Sodexo’s chefs. All members of the cooking staff are minimum block one apprentice certified, while every building has a Red Seal chef. The Red Seal is an interprovincial standard of excellence in a skilled trade. Every six months Sodexo’s recipe bank is updated. “It’s quite a process. The software that we use to manage our production does everything from creating our grocery list based on recipes that we’ve chosen for the menu cycle. If I’m feeding 200 people, it tells me what I need to buy and how much of it,” Bayliss said. “It’s actually fairly new. We’re now launching our version four and each time we’ve upgraded the system, we’ve been able to fine-tune it and refine it to enable us to do more, like Canadian pricing and purchasing.” Before a recipe enters Sodexo’s recipe bank, potentially joining a menu cycle, it is tested by Sodexo’s National Menu Committee. The tests check flavour profiles and nutritional content, among
other things. “If I want to do a shepard’s pie, I may have three recipes I could choose from. It starts there and ends on the plate and it will tell us how much we need to produce and we track how much people actually ate so that we don’t over-produce next time,” Bayliss said. “If it’s something that we’ve never put on before, you never know if everyone’s going to like it or not. So we analyze every meal, post-meal. So, if we had a seafood lasagna and we made 300 portions and only 100 portions got used, that we’ll take off and not have on next time.” Since Sodexo feeds so many people, traceability is an important part of business. Traceability is the ability to track food through all stages of production, beginning from the seeds planted, the growing process, transportation, preparation, right up to consumption. Traceability can identifies problems in the chain and can help to prevent foodborne illnesses. “If something happened, you’re going to impact a lot of people versus one person,” Bayliss explained. “I can tell you when something got made, where it came from, when it was shipped out from the farm and supplier. We have the resources in place and that’s a big part.” Traceability is also part of the reason why, sometimes, it is just not feasible to buy local. Sodexo at UNB does do its best to buy local whenever possible. Sodexo also seeks to promote sustainability through its Better Tomorrow Plan. Rumours about the meal halls on campus occasionally have the word, ‘repetitive’ in them. The menus at meal hall are on a five-week rotation, with 19 meals a week. “The biggest frustration from our perspective is that students eat in the same location pretty much everyday,” Bayliss said. “It’s like going to the same place everyday.” “The problem for some students is that they get comfortable with ‘this is what I like’ or ‘this is what I eat.’” It sometimes takes some coaxing to get students to try new things, Bayliss explained. “To break the monotony up, we do things called Taste Changers. They’re three times a week, they’re different every week and they’re not part of the regular menu. We now promote it.”
Some Taste Changers are poutine night and nacho night. If variety is what students are looking for, Bayliss recommends checking out the online menus. Each meal hall has the menu for the next two weeks on line and if students want to they can plan which meal halls they want to attend. The only meal hall not accessible to all students is McLeod House. To get into that meal hall, make friends with someone from the dorm. If you don’t like something, Sodexo is all ears. Feedback sheets ‘Messages to the Manager’ can be found in all dining halls and are responded to quickly. Feedback can also be submitted online. “Once a month we have a food committee, which deals with residence dining only. Each house on campus has a food rep and sometimes the vicepresident or president of the house will come.” “We can adapt and make changes on the fly.” If students like something, or think of an idea, they should submit feedback Bayliss said. The same rule applies to students with dietary needs. Bethany Chandler, a second year medicinal chemistry student, comments that she would not know how to submit feedback. “None of my friends [would know how to]. Very few in my residence actually know how to go about doing it. I suppose where we live in residence, we would have to talk to our meal hall consultant.” Chandler notices a difference between meal halls. She frequents DKT and McConnell Hall on a regular basis. “DKT is cooking for a smaller group, so their meals tend to have more taste and have more flavour.” “I find McConnell to be geared towards a larger group of people. I don’t mind it.” Chandler said when asked if she enjoys meal hall, “It’s a lot better than eating out. I prefer home cooked meals, or making them myself; however, it’s an alright choice.” Last year, Sodexo ran into some controversy with a vegetarian student group on campus. They found that of 11 vegetarian or vegan options, nine did not fully meet the dietary needs of these groups.
Martin Bayliss, general manager of Sodexo at UNB. Andrew Meade / The Brunswickan