These days, the salads in Yale’s residential colleges might seem fresher and the soups might taste better — but it isn’t just a trick of the tastebuds.
In a move administrators said would allow them to purchase the highest quality product at the best price possible, Yale Dining Services recently contracted Community Fruitland, a Rhode Island-based produce company, to provide pre-cut produce items for all 12 residential colleges. Pre-cut items include the chopped carrots, lettuce and peppers that are used in soups and salads.
The new contract with Community Fruitland comes after a month-long investigation by the Yale Daily News revealed serious price discrepancies between produce from national food service giant Sysco Corp. and local vendors.
Aramark, a food services provider, took control of the residential college dining hall system and Commons in 1998. Since then, Sysco — which is the primary food provider for Aramark — has provided pre-cut produce and other food items.
Community Fruitland will have the pre-cut items contract for the rest of the year, at which point Fowler-Huntting Co., Sysco, and other produce vendors will be able to submit bids for providing produce for the residential colleges in the next academic year. Previously, Sysco held the contract for providing pre-cut produce items to the residential colleges.
Yale Dining Services only recently awarded the contract to Community Fruitland, said Ernst Huff, associate vice president of student financial and administrative services.
“We were pleased with the product and pleased with the price,” Huff said.
Community Fruitland served Yale before Aramark, said David Yandow, who is vice president of local produce provider Fowler-Huntting Co.
“It’s not like [Sysco] had Yale locked up,” Huff said.
In the interests of efficiency, Aramark contracted out to Sysco and reduced the role of produce providers, such as Fowler-Huntting and Community Fruitland, said David Davidson, Yale Dining Services Director.
Although Huff said Fowler-Huntting was given an opportunity to bid on the contract for pre-cut produce items, Yandow said Yale Dining Services did not contact him until Davidson left a message in March informing him that Community Fruitland would provide pre-cut produce items for the rest of the year.
“[Dining Services] never really came to the table with any offer,” said Yandow. “They didn’t afford us the opportunity to bid on [pre-cut] items.”
But Huff claims Fowler-Huntting did have an opportunity to bid on the contract.
“We asked Yandow to submit a bid,” said Huff. “We didn’t get anything other than complaints after the fact.”
Yale Dining Services, under Aramark management, will review the bids from produce vendors later this spring and should make a final decision by July, Huff said. Sysco will also be able to make a bid, Huff added.