Cather Dining Center
Students eat in the Cather Dining Center on Sunday, Feb 2, 2020, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Starting this semester, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has a new prime vendor for its food services. 

On Oct. 25, 2019, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents voted to replace Cash-Wa, a distributor out of Kearney, with US Foods Inc. and Greenberg Fruit Company as UNL’s prime Dining Services vendor. Every five years, the university allows different companies to bid to become its food supplier, and UNL received four bids this past year, according to University Dining Services director Dave Annis.

UNL will now receive about 80% of its food from US Foods Inc. and Greenberg Fruit Company. Members on an evaluation group determined this switch was the most economical option. But Annis said it can be difficult to change food vendors in the middle of a school year because some of the food items have changed.

“Students get used to a certain product, and even if you change that product for something that arguably is better, it’s different,” he said. “Once they get used to something, students don’t necessarily like different.”

In order to make the transition as smooth as possible, Annis said Dining Services has tried to match each new product as close to the old product as possible. For example, he said the Cash-Wa chicken tender product they were buying should be the same as or close to the US Foods Inc. chicken tender product they are buying now.

However, he said some students have reported they do not like some of the substitutions, namely the crinkle-cut fries and onion rings. Dining Services plans to adjust by finding something that students feel matches better, Annis said. 

“Students are really good at letting us know when something isn’t quite right,” he said. “We’ll adjust, and we’ll find something that matches much closer to what we had before … That’s part of the learning.”

Dining Services strives to maintain a certain level of quality, Annis said.

“We won’t buy the cheapest product, and a lot of the time we won’t buy the most expensive product either,” he said. “We need something that’s good quality but that students can afford.”

Traeger said it may take around six months to adjust to the changes and improve the food selections to make them better matches.

Although he said his team still has work to do and products to test, Annis believes the transition has gone smoothly.

“We really only had November and December to try to do all the switchovers,” he said. “So, I think my team did a great job.”

Traeger said she is most looking forward to eventually being able to offer new options to students through the prime vendor.

“There should be some new opportunities to make changes,” she said. “Change is good.”

This article was modified at 6:50 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, to remove the name of an anonymous member of the evaluation group.

This article was modified at 5:27 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, to remove the name of an anonymous member of the evaluation group.