by Meaghan Dodson ’17
As it celebrates its centennial year, Providence College has been looking back into the past and celebrating its various traditions. One “tradition,” however, that (depending on who you ask) may or may not be a part of this legacy is the late night “Yuck Truck.” Officially called the Haven Bros. Mobile food truck, “Yuck Truck” has been a part of PC for the past six years, four of which it has been parked on the campus itself.
The truck typically arrives to campus at around 11 p.m. on weekend nights. It parks behind Raymond Dining Hall and then proceeds to serve sandwiches and other fast food until around 2 a.m.
Within the past few weeks, however, there has been a move on the part of the College’s administration to remove the Yuck Truck from campus. A few weekends ago security was instructed to not let Yuck Truck on campus but, since then, the truck has been permitted to enter as usual.
Although Yuck Truck has been coming to campus for multiple years now, PC has never had a formal contract with the company. The company it does have a contract with is Sodexo, the provider of PC’s food and dining services. The administration stated that a large reason why it is considering the Yuck Truck ban is to honor its contract with Sodexo, especially since the new Eaton Street Cafe features a late night food window.
Warren Gray, assistant vice president for business services, stated, “Providence College has a contract with Sodexo to provide a variety of board and retail food operations on campus. Our agreement is fairly typical in that it grants Sodexo the rights to be our food provider on campus. Even the presence of Dunkin Donuts on campus had to be negotiated with Sodexo…In light of the contract and the opening of an on-campus late night food operation, we felt that continuing to allow a food truck on our campus, at the minimum, violated the spirit of the contract. Sodexo is responsive to the College regarding hours of operation, menus, quality of food, and provides a staff that is trained and provided with fair salaries and benefits. The Food trucks have a competitive advantage in that they pay their employees less and provide fewer benefits, and can they choose whether they show up on campus or not. Sodexo also contributes funds and pays commissions which go to supporting scholarships and other College operations. Sodexo employs student in many of their operations. Sodexo is a real campus partner.”
“When the Ryan School of Business was designed, it included a food component, now known as the Eaton Street Cafe,” Gray continued. “[W]e will continue to evaluate the operation of the Eaton Street Cafe to insure that it meets the late night food needs of the students including possible menu changes, hours of operation, and the addition of ordering window and a pick up window. We will also continue to evaluate the presence of outside vendors on campus.”
After suggesting the ban, members of the PC administration asked students for their input. The idea, however, has been met with criticism from Student Congress and other concerned students.
In the March 23 issue of The Cowl, the 67th Student Congress Executive Board sent in a “letter to the editor” informing the PC community that members of Congress met with Chief Financial Officer John Sweeney and Assistant Vice President for Business Services Warren Gray about the issue earlier in the week. Congress asked for students to voice their concerns about the potential ban.
Congress followed up with the letter by creating an online petition to “Oppose Yuck Truck Ban!” The petition currently has 982 signatures. According to Patrick Rogers ’17, Student Congress executive secretary, Congress’ next move is to set up another meeting with PC administrators in order to share the petition with them.
Referring to the possibility that, if banned, the truck will be relocated off campus, Rogers stated, “I have major concerns for student safety if the truck is parked on a busy road, such as Eaton Street. Cars drive very fast and the lighting may not be the best. The truck could also block the view of some students crossing since, even at the crosswalks, cars rarely will stop for students.”
John Stablein ’19, the Student Congress Sodexo representative, added, “Yuck Truck is a staple of Providence College for current students and alumni.PC administration should want to keep a tradition and maintain student’s safety for once, instead of being concerned about money, revenue, and monopolizing our choices.” In addition, other students raised concerns about the truck attracting non-PC students, citing the Yuck Truck’s current location next to the Office of Safety and Security as a positive.
Stu Gerhardt, general manager of PC’s Food and Dining Services, stated that he did not initiate the suggestion to ban Yuck Truck because it is “not my place” to ask that of the College. He emphasized that, while he does work for Sodexo, he and all of his workers consider themselves a part of the PC community.
“What [PC administrators] are trying to do is look at the best possible options for the entire community while also keeping in mind what will most help the Food and Dining Services,” Gerhardt stated. He pointed out that students can use their Friar Bucks and PC Cash at the Eaton Street Cafe’s late night window but cannot do so at Yuck Truck.
Gerhardt emphasized that his main concern is keeping students healthy. “Sodexo employees are trained in food safety, and Sodexo’s food vendors are audited for quality control. People have to understand that I have no idea — and that the College has no idea —where [outside food trucks’] food was made, how it is maintained, etc.”
When asked if Yuck Truck relocation would result in increased revenue for the Eaton Street Cafe, Gerhardt replied, “Competition is always good, and students will vote with their dollars. I don’t necessarily think it will affect it…again, for me it’s not the money, it’s the health of the students and the what-ifs. I’ll stay neutral…it’s not my decision.”
Morgan Itz ’18, Congress chair of student life, affirmed that students do not see the Yuck Truck and Eaton Street Cafe as competing with one another. “We want them both,” Itz stated. “They offer different food items.”
Patty Prew, the event manager of Haven Bros. Mobile, stated, “We want to remain on campus and continue to serve the PC Students. We love being part of the Providence College community and tradition! The students know us and look forward to seeing the ‘Haven Sisters’ and Sal every weekend!. Our menu is specially designed just for Providence College students. We have even named several sandwiches just for PC.”
When asked what she thought would happen if the Yuck Truck moved off campus, Prew replied, “We think the PC students will continue to support us with their business, but it is much better and safer for us to remain on campus.”
With everything still up in the air, Yuck Truck’s status as a “PC tradition” remains uncertain as the debate continues to rage around Friars and their fries.