Evolving policy may welcome outside vendors

While Sonoma State University has success in many aspects of student life, the lack of attendance at campus events can be extremely prevalent. While different clubs and organizations try their best to develop new ideas to promote student involvement, there seems to be one factor that never fails to boost attendance -- food.

Many clubs, organizations, students and faculty serve food at different events held on campus hoping to spark student interest. Not only can food be used to boost participation for public campus events, it can also help educate people on different cultures. Unfortunately the path to bring food on campus isn’t without hurdles.

“Right now, any kind of catering has to go through the university. This leaves clubs with only one choice of catering which can be somewhat pricy at times for student clubs,” said Robert Smith, campus life advisor at Sonoma State. “You can only use outside catering for member only events, but that takes away the ability for clubs to reach out to different students.”

Smith is a member of a food policy committee at Sonoma State where they examine the old policy, try to get feedback from students and faculty and look for what would be most beneficial and the best fit for campus. Both students and faculty have brought up the issue of outside food vendors.

“There could be less interaction with students catering with Sonoma State, but what people want the most is options. Just because there are other options doesn’t mean they won’t use on campus catering, but it’s always good to have choices for the students,” said Smith.

While Smith has noticed complications among clubs putting on public events, Savannah Guinn, the Associated Students senator of diversity, has also been aware of conflicts from the old policy.

“I know it has caused issues in terms of student groups that want to put on events involving homemade food or food catered from off-campus. It has limited these students ability to market their organizations on campus in a fun way,” said Guinn.

Though Guinn is aware of the conflicts the policy has created, she has many ideas in which she feels could change the campus for the better. 

“I think this policy could provide a great opportunity to make things like a farmers market, or food truck events, possible on campus. I’ve talked to many students who have expressed there is a need for these types of community-based events at Sonoma State, especially ones that could offer healthy, local or culturally diverse food,” Guinn said.

Although Guinn is hopeful for the new policy to be acted upon right away, she worries it won’t be implemented before she graduates.

Ryan Ernst, the director of sales and marketing, is also a member of the food policy committee. Ernst is also responsible for the marketing and communication of many non-academic departments on campus. 

“Currently the committee is in the information gathering stage.  We are investigating how other [California State University] institutions are operating to establish best practices in the area. In addition, we are working with Environmental Health and Safety to ensure that any proposed changes are in accordance with the health code, to be sure everyone on our campus is safe,” said Ernst.

Giving on-campusorganizations more options for food vendor choices has many different benefits that Ernst feels would leave a positive impact at Sonoma State. 

“Through increased cultural options and enhanced fundraising opportunities, we hope our student organizations will feel even more support to carry out their important activities,” Ernst said.

If the food policy does change, Ernst feels that it can help give the push Sonoma State students and faculty need to move forward with any ideas they might have for school events.

“We hope all proposed changes are positive for the campus community. Increased choice allows for more variety, especially as it pertains to cultural organizations, which can make a positive impact on the student experience,” Ernst said.

While making more food options available for clubs at Sonoma State can be positive for some, many are curious about how the policy affects University Culinary Services.

“University Culinary Services is happy to be a part of these conversations as facilitating a positive student experience is one of their key objectives on campus,” said Ernst.

If students wish to provide feedback to the committee, Ernst encourages them to reach out to Ricky Albanese, the Associated Students vice president of finance at asvpf@sonoma.edu.