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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, February 07, 2023

State may force UW food vendor change

The Wisconsin state legislature aims to change UW-Madison's current process of purchasing campus food. The new prime vendor system would involve working with only one distributor. 




UW System schools in Platteville, Stout, Milwaukee and Madison are the targets of the food contract changes. Robert Fessenden, associate director of University Housing, said UW-Madison currently works with up to 10 distributors. 




\With the prime vendor you agree to buy your food items through one company, and the state's hope is that one company could eventually do the whole state,"" he said.  




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One of the university's main concerns is maintaining low prices without compromising quality and variety. 




""Because we have to raise our prices for the inflation of food, we don't want to see students get hit for prices going up so the prisons and other state agencies can pay less for their food,"" Fessenden said. ""That to us is blatantly unfair. Students shouldn't have to support prisons or other state agencies. It's expensive enough to go to school without trying to support other branches of the government."" 




Bidding is set to start at the end of May with a winner awarded and contracted by July 1. 




Julie Vincent, assistant director of Wisconsin Unions, said she thought the Union's food options would remain diverse if the state agrees to the university's recommendations. 




""We will continue to operate and get a wide variety of products,"" Vincent said. ""Students communicate what they want, in particular in selection, like before in coffee taste-tests. But if the bid continues as before, we may not save money."" 




Losing relationships with local food distributors is also a point of concern for the new contract. Mike Hardiman, director of purchasing for UW-Madison, said he worried about possible consequences if the prime vendor ran out of a certain product. 




""Our other concern is we have very good relationships with our suppliers right now and if they're no longer getting university business, are they going to be willing to help out when we need them?"" he said. ""We're also concerned about making sure ... that we honor these contracts through their initial term of agreement."" 




Fessenden said as long as the state takes the university's requests seriously, the prime-vendor contract situation could be positive. 




""We don't want quality and variety to go down and we certainly don't want the price we pay to go up,"" Fessenden said. ""One thing we're very insistent on is if we have to pay more for food, we will not be part of it. ... If indeed it saves money that will be great."" 




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