Forget the missing cups. When several employees of AVI Foodsystems say their chefs are telling them to serve expired food — at one point telling an employee to conveniently “lose” an expiration date label — it means the College has a larger problem on its hands.
The College should seek a more active role for itself in addressing employee complains when it comes time to renegotiate its food service contract. Already, Fred Linger, business services manager, is directing employees to come to him when they’re told to serve outdated food. It is as if the College is saying it doesn’t trust AVI to regulate itself. So why should students?
To care about the welfare of AVI employees requires demanding an end to the verbal abuse many claim to have experienced; the instructions from superiors that they serve expired food; and the inefficacy of their union, Local 84, in addressing their concerns. These employees deserve better from a College that trumpets the notion of “the Kenyon community.”
Jeff Wharry, director of human resources at AVI, declined to talk with the Collegian on the phone, but agreed to respond to questions via email. When asked about workers who complained they were told to serve out-of-date food in April 2015, Wharry wrote:
“We take pride in serving fresh, wholesome foods and our local sourcing program at Kenyon. We have safety protocols to ensure we accurately monitor expiration dates. Our protocols are simple: We have zero tolerance for serving any type of food that is beyond a use by date. No expired food was served.”
Employees tell a different story.
While Linger met with AVI employees a year ago, several AVI workers who spoke with the Collegian said problems persist. AVI — and the College — apparently has done little to address these. And how can we expect AVI executives like Wharry to address employee complaints when he advertises, on LinkedIn, that one of his top skills — for which he has been endorsed 11 times — is “union avoidance”?
Some may say our coverage mischaracterizes the extent to which AVI workers have problems with their employer. While many AVI employees have said they are happy in their work and have never been told to serve food past its expiration date, quite a few others have said otherwise — enough to raise legitimate concerns over the safety of Peirce’s food.
The College must take drastic steps to ensure those who work at Peirce are treated fairly and that its dining service has the resources it needs to provide fresh food. Clearly it can no longer say it’s an “AVI problem” or a “union problem.” All parties need to come together to ensure Kenyon has a food provider of which all can be proud.