February 14, 2017 | 4 p.m.
By Monique Kleinhuizen ’08, GS’16, new media strategist
Bethel University has extended its contract with external food service provider Sodexo for another 10 years, and Sodexo has agreed to make a $3 million investment in Bethel as an incentive. The university has decided to put $800,000 of those funds into an endowed scholarship fund—the Sodexo Act Six Endowed Scholarship—to benefit Act Six scholars. Act Six is a full-tuition, full-need leadership scholarship program that prepares and empowers young people from urban communities to change their neighborhoods through education and leadership development across the country. Bethel’s involvement with Act Six began in Fall 2015, with 11 students enrolling through the program, and another 10 students entered Fall 2016.
“Bethel and Sodexo have already had a great partnership during the last few years, but this solidifies our partnership even more and demonstrates that Sodexo is also interested in actively investing in the lives of our students,” says Pat Brooke, Bethel’s chief financial officer, who negotiated the contract extension. According to Brooke, Bethel has set aside another $300,000 of the investment to upgrade portions of the Monson Dining Center kitchen—two rotisseries have already been installed—and the remainder will go toward the university’s endowment.
Bob Schuchardt, general manager of Sodexo dining services at Bethel, says that except for one year, Sodexo has been in partnership with Bethel since 1982. For nearly 35 years Sodexo staff have gotten to know the unique Bethel community, which has developed into a deep mutual relationship between the two organizations. Sodexo leadership was heavily involved in planning for the addition of kitchen and food service areas within Brushaber Commons, and is now helping plan for expansions—and new food options—at Anderson Center. Schuchardt hopes that the official extension of Sodexo’s contract is grounds for teams on both sides to dream about how Sodexo’s offerings can continue to serve distinct Bethel populations.
“We truly know the community at this point—and it’s exciting to be able to weigh in to the future of food at Bethel,” says Schuchardt, who notes that many of his core staff have long track records on campus, so they’ve gotten to know the idiosyncrasies of the Bethel culture on a personal level. “We work so closely with student groups and organizations, and we’re constantly introducing new things.”
On the map for the future are an expansion of digital features—like being able to pre-order 3900 Grill meals from a phone or purchase a Starbucks coffee or Simply to Go entrée from an unstaffed vending center at Anderson Center—as well as offering rotisserie chickens, bread, and other fresh items for sale through the new “Monson Market.” A Colombian “Global Chef” will be on-site this spring, cooking up ethnic dishes and celebrating the diversity of food and the unique tastes of people groups represented on campus.
Sodexo’s new Mindful initiative and a close collaboration with Wellness Center, athletics, and Student Life staff on Bethel’s new integrated Wellness program are further evidence of the conscientious and community-centric approach that Sodexo takes to food.