Sodexho sells prison shares, adds sub shop

UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH — Pitt’s food services provider has ended its controversial ties to the business of private prisons.

On May 30, Sodexho Alliance announced that it would sell all shares of stock that the company owned in Corrections Corporations of America, a company that runs private prisons. Sodexho Alliance is also the parent company of Sodexho Marriott, the company contracted to provide all of Pitt’s food service.

“Sodexho was never involved in [CCA]’s management,” said Sodexho spokeswoman Leslie Aun. Aun said the company had purchased the shares as a blind investment.

Private prisons are those that are owned and operated by corporations under government guidelines and supervision. The company that owns the prison is paid to house inmates. Critics of such prisons claim that the privatization of jail cells creates an unfair conflict of interest between the legal and private sectors.

In a Pitt News story published earlier this year, Students in Solidarity member John Headley criticized Sodexho’s practice as “students building prisons.” Headley and other Students in Solidarity members gathered more than 1,000 signatures on a petition protesting Sodexho’s involvement with CCA.

In ending its ties with private prisons, Sodexho did not change the way it provides food at Pitt. But at the beginning of the fall semester, the food service provider will take over a popular food venue in the William Pitt Union.

Pitt recently announced it would close the snack shop on the lower level of the Union within six weeks. The shop was run by the Student Organization Resource Center. A SORC representative refused to comment on the shop’s closing.

The snack shop will be replaced by another food vendor, dubbed Sub Connection and run by Sodexho, that will make prepared foods such as subs and pizzas. Depending on student demand and use, the shop will be open late at night for students returning from clubs and parties.

Pitt spokesman Robert Hill called the shop “a wonderful opportunity to create more responsive food services for the students.”

Hill said there were no plans to re-open the snack shop, which sold sodas, candy bars and magazines and provided picture developing services. Hill said students could purchase candy at local retailers and get pictures developed at the photo store just down the street. The Sub Connection will be open in the fall.

The Sub Connection is the first step of “Vision 2001,” a game plan created by Frank Caruso, the newly appointed head of PittÕs Sodexho operation. Part of “Vision 2001” will include adding more vegetarian dishes to the menu and adding “sports bar food, less the alcohol.”

“Eighteen to 24-year-olds prefer ‘comfort foods,'” Caruso said over a lunch-time meeting several weeks ago. “Meat and potatoes, nothing too fancy.”

Caruso, who has worked in food services for universities all along the East Coast, also plans to incorporate some of his own recipes, including one for buttermilk pancakes, into dining hall menus.

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