The UNC community has a blind spot. Despite lukewarm advocacy to improve prison conditions and to transform a culture that proliferates and profits from the mistreatment of prisoners, the University continues to finance the expansion of public and privatized prisons through its contract with Aramark.
Aramark provides our campus dining halls with the food we eat at increasing prices. Additionally, Aramark is responsible for hiring (and firing) within Carolina Dining Services. A cloak of misdirection over UNC students makes it difficult to see how a dime spent on meal plans is a dime spent toward sustaining the prison-industrial complex.
Currently, Aramark is contracted by 500 correctional facilities and serves 380 million meals annually in these facilities. It reports a 97 percent retention rate with the legislative bodies that run prisons — a reflection of the blindness most legislators have to the inherently inhumane conditions within prisons and to the complaints of people detained within them.
In Michigan, 250 inmates reported illness after eating low-quality chicken tacos provided by Aramark. Of those inmates, 16 sued Aramark, and their case came to a settlement in September. This is not the only incident of prisoners complaining about Aramark’s food quality. In 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio called for the complete divestment from Aramark due to similar reports and breaches of contract within their state. So while some governments might not have a quarrel with Aramark, many of the people they are “serving” do.
For example, its FreshFavorites program is labeled as a behavior-management tool, and it serves as a food-based reward system that gives better-quality food to incarcerated people who have good behavior. There is no rationale for depriving some of nutrition, while rewarding others with food. Food should not be a behavior incentive; it is a necessity that should not be withheld or downgraded on any contingency — withholding it for any reason is morally unjust, yet it is happening, and Aramark officials are allowing it.