The University of Kentucky is moving forward with a 15-year, nearly $250 million contract with Aramark to provide dining services for the school. As part of the agreement, UK's Board of Trustees has approved some $70 million in private dining capital project investments, including $40 million in new facilities, that Aramark will make by 2017-18. This includes a new K-Lair at Haggin Hall and substantial upgrades to the Student Center Food Court, both to be ready for this fall, and a newly constructed Commons for Fall 2015 that will feature Kentucky Proud products and sustainable design elements.

In the last two years, UK has invested over $380 million in constructing more than 5,700 high-tech residence hall beds, the largest overhaul of housing in American public higher education, according to the school.

"In many respects, the direction we are embarking on today is as transformative as the process we started two years ago to revitalize student housing across the campus," says  UK President Eli Capilouto. "Both initiatives place as a priority our top goal as an institution—doing what is best for our students. We are placing students first—in how they live, how they eat, where they learn and how we prepare them through a first-class education alongside a stellar faculty and staff. Today marks another way that we are declaring that the University of Kentucky will be among the handful of top-tier residential public research campuses in America."

Key provisions of the partnership with Aramark include...

• Prices for UK's six current student meal plans will be reduced, with the most expensive plan falling in price by 26% or about $740 per semester;

• Several new food brands will be locating on campus starting this fall, when a new locally owned Common Grounds, Rising Roll Gourmet, Einstein Bros. Bagels and Greens to Go will open on campus;

• In Fall 2015, the first on-campus Panera in the nation will open as part of a new, $32 million Commons that Aramark is building near the W.T. Young Library.

• More emphasis will be placed on nutrition and wellness with a full-time dietician hired by Aramark, digital menu boards, a nutrition website and mobile apps for nutrition and fitness that will be instituted, among other innovations.

• Aramark is providing guarantees to increase Kentucky Proud and local food purchasing, including an 11% increase in the first year of the contract with $2 million in guaranteed purchases, and over the life of the contract, local food and Kentucky Proud purchases are projected to grow each year and represent approximately 25% of total food purchases by the end of the term;

• Significant sustainability initiatives will include LEED certification being sought on new construction, hiring of a full-time sustainability coordinator and implementation of Green Thread business practices, including waste stream management practices, minimizing food waste and supporting composting, energy audits and other energy and conservation initiatives;

• The creation of a "Food Hub" in partnership with the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, including a $5 million guaranteed investment in an unprecedented academic partnership;

• The approximately 110 current UK dining employees will have the opportunity to remain university employees with the same salary and benefits, a guarantee made by the university more than a year ago;

• Aramark is committed to growing the number of full-time and student employees;

• Key Performance Indicators on all major facets of the contract between UK and Aramark will be tracked and will include financial penalties if measures are not met in areas such as local food sourcing, customer satisfaction, nutrition and wellness, and employee numbers.