New dining service app’s partnership with corporate giant sparks discussion
In the past two years, UC Davis and the UC system have been actively divesting from organizations directly linked to private prisons. These private prisons, or for-profit prisons, are facilities in which individuals are confined by a third party company that is contracted by a government agency.
In October 2017, Student Dining Services introduced Tapingo, a mobile ordering app, to various locations on campus including the CoHo, the CoHo South Cafe and Biobrew. The goal of Tapingo was to reduce wait times and lines at these popular campus eateries, in order to lessen crowding and increase business.
However, concerns have been raised regarding Tapingo’s partnership with Aramark, a corporate food service giant that has clients in education and healthcare as well as contracts with privatized correctional institutions.
ASUCD Senator Marcos Rodriguez initially raised concerns about Tapingo after reading an article online published by American Friends Service Committee.
“The article stated that companies profiting from the prison-industrial complex have found a way into almost every corner of college campuses,” Rodriguez said. “For example, Sodexo, the company UC Davis partnered with for a while for food services, also profits off of contracts with private prisons. I actually read an article on Medium that argued Sodexo is […] worse than Aramark.”
The Medium article states: “Sodexo actually operates private prisons and immigrant detention centers around the world.” Rodriguez said a company with ties to private prisons on college campuses doesn’t seem, to him, “to be a unique situation.”
According to the article, Aramark “works in over 600 correctional institutions across the United States and Canada […and] serves more than 1,000,000 meals to prisoners each day.”
Aramark has been subject to various protests, strikes and lawsuits by employees, community members and inmates in the past including an inmate suing the prison for “price-gouging gourmet food”.
Director of Dining Services at UC Davis Darin Schluep stated that Tapingo’s ties to Aramark did not play a role in his decision to establish and promote the app on campus.
“I’m not necessarily working with Aramark, which is of course in the prison industry, so to me there was no correlation between providing a service to our customers through Tapingo, who doesn’t work directly with the prison industry,” Schluep said. “I don’t see the link there. I don’t see the connection by which me working with Tapingo directly supports the prison industry or Aramark.”
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Tapingo “has also partnered with food-service operators like Aramark and Sodexo.” In response to the development of a partnership between Aramark and Tapingo, Schluep said, “that wasn’t really part of my decision-making process.”
Andreas Godderis, a second-year economics major and ASUCD senator, works regularly with Tapingo as an employee at the South CoHo.
“My knowledge of the app comes from the experience I have with it from working at the South CoHo,” Godderis said. “We installed Tapingo earlier Fall Quarter and it was kind of going through a test run and it should be going through the mainstream in the winter.”
Godderis responded to the news of the existing partnership between the two companies and expressed his views on the privatized prison industry.
“I was not at all aware of that [partnership], and that’s deeply disturbing,” Godderis said. “I am going to be looking into that, because private prisons are not at all democratic and horrible to society. This is the first time I’m hearing of this. I use Tapingo on a daily basis as an employee, and that’s not very fun to hear.”
Godderis said he plans to reach out to other ASUCD officials and, eventually, Tapingo’s developers.
“Given this information, I’m going to talk to some of the other senators and hopefully email or get in contact with Tapingo and the developers and see why they use that service,” Godderis said. “If it is indeed tied to the private prisons, I believe that the majority of the student body is vehemently opposed to that and they will take a stand on that issue and make a public [statement] that if Tapingo doesn’t change that, there will be some sort of student backlash. Hopefully students are willing to protest the use of that, but first I will start by contacting and reaching out to Tapingo and seeing what their side is.”
Godderis responded to the claim that there is no link between supporting the private prison industry and doing business with Tapingo.
“For my personal opinion, if they are at all part of a network that supports private prisons then I am absolutely opposed to it regardless of how small those ties are,” Godderis said.
Tapingo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Written by: Priyanka Shreedar — email@example.com