Forum discusses possible outsourcing of UK dining

By Morgan Eads | @KyKernel

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UK United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) expressed concern about the possible outsourcing of UK dining in an open forum Wednesday.

UK has not committed to outsourcing the dining services here at UK, but all options are being considered, UK spokesperson Jay Blanton said.

The process of looking at options in the future of UK dining has been going on for a few months now but little information has been shared with students, said Alli Sehon, anthropology senior and USAS member.

“We are talking about restructuring how our university works, yet we are not actually talking about it,” Sehon said. “We are sort of lost in the dark and we have no guidance from our administrators.“

The forum focused on possible problems outsourcing could bring on UK’s campus.

“We just really have our concerns about how workers would be treated under new management, about the health and quality of the food and about our environmental impact on the community, “ said Kate Miller-Byrne, political science major and USAS member.

USAS began a petition at “” late Sunday night. As of 11 p.m. Wednesday night, 622 people had signed the petition.

When asked about the petition, Blanton said the university was glad to see so much interest and involvement in students and assured that the well-being of UK employees is a priority.

One of the main points brought up during the forum is the possible effect outsourcing could have on UK’s currently close relationship with Kentucky Proud and locally grown products.

The partnership with local growers and Kentucky Proud has educational benefits, professor of agriculture Alissa Rossi said.

“The food reflects what we are talking about in class,” Rossi said. “We can trace back to the farmer and describe the type of farm that produced a particular item.”

Local farmers also came to show their concern for the idea of outsourcing.

“A lot of us become farmers because we believe in responsibility, we take responsibility with our animals, our crops and everything that we do,” Zarathustra Owens of Owens Farm said. “The University of Kentucky also has responsibilities.”

Owens went on to say UK had responsibilities for student health and the health of the local economy, both of which are directly affected by UK dining.

“I hope we don’t lose UK, I hope UK doesn’t lose local farmers,” Trudy Reed of Reed Valley Orchard said.

“It keeps local farmers farming,” Reed Valley Orchard’s Dana Reed said. “It keeps the money in the local community, it stays here.”

Austin Willoughby, Dana and Trudie Reed’s 11-year-old grandson who plans to attend UK, signed the petition alongside UK students and community members.

“I’ve realized local food tastes a lot better. I’d really like if I could get real food when I get to UK,” Willoughby said.

The point of the forum was not to deny that UK dining needs to be improved, Sehon said.

“We all know things have to change. We all know that money is short and demand is high,” Sehon said.

Sehon feels, however, that outside companies should not be the ones to make these changes.

“There are 26,000 plus brilliant people on campus who are involved in things like sustainability and agriculture and business who do have plans and can have plans if they are asked. We are the people to solve our problems we don’t need to go to someone else to do that,” Sehon said.

Sehon was adamant USAS, students and community members would not back down from their campaign.

“It’s our campus and we are scared for it and we are going to fight for it.”