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OSU’s new dining deal could be a steal

An egg is an egg and milk is milk, whether an Ohio State student or a prisoner is consuming it.

The University Residences and Dining Services at OSU received a proposal from Ohio correctional facilities to discuss preliminary thoughts about creating buying groups for food commodities.

Although prisons would be ordering from the same buyers, students will not have to worry about eating the same quality of food as someone who has been incarcerated.

“There is no way I would allow the quality of food served to decrease for any reason. I hold myself personally accountable,” said Mark Newton, the executive chef of OSU’s University Residences and Dining Services. “The only combined purchases would be commodities such as milk or eggs. No matter what, a chicken still lays the egg, the only difference is the quantity that you buy.”

Zia Ahmed, the senior director of OSU’s University Residences and Dining Services, said even if a group purchasing organization, or GPO, does form, the result will be a greater buying power. The parties involved in the GPO would not have to order the same products to receive discounts.

Newton said the primary reason for these preliminary talks is to continue producing the highest quality of food, without raising prices for students, by creating GPOs.

“It is becoming a challenge to keep cost in control. … Since 2008, wholesale prices raised about 2 to 3 percent each year, so it is more expensive for us,” Newton said.

“The quality of the food here is good, but the prices are ridiculous,” said Stephanie Enarusai, a fourth-year in biology.

Enarusai said she had to give up her meal plan because prices were getting too high.

“Here at Mirror Lake (Creamery and Grill), you used to be able to get a whole meal like hot wings with mashed potatoes and gravy,” Enarusai said. “Today it almost hurt swiping my debit card for a $5 sandwich.”

Just how much money the university, as well as students buying meals from the university, would save is still unclear. Newton said the talks are still preliminary and he is not sure which or how many prisons and other universities are willing to join.

Newton said about 35,000 meals are served throughout campus every day.

If quality did decrease, Newton, who used to work in fine dining, said he expects there would be customer feedback. He said, as a chef, you have to set your ego aside and take criticisms.

“I love honesty, and colleges are great for that because students will speak their minds,” Newton said.

Representatives from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction were not immediately available for comment.


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