The Signal

Serving the College since 1885

Sunday November 28th

Understaffing cited for problems at the Atrium at Eickhoff: changes to occur to improve dining experience

<p><em>Students sounded off on the quality of the food being served at the Atrium at Eickhoff Hall (tcnj.sodexomyway.com).</em></p>

Students sounded off on the quality of the food being served at the Atrium at Eickhoff Hall (tcnj.sodexomyway.com).

By Delaney Smith
Staff Writer

The Atrium at Eickhoff Hall has been experiencing problems as of late with food quality, food supply and staffing. Students have reported going off-campus to find meals since the Atrium has been out of food. These issues have culminated in a slew of complaints from parents and students who demand an explanation.

“Nothing like this has ever happened before,” said Leanne Villareal, a junior psychology major. “It’s really crazy.”

“As well as the food not necessarily being of great quality, usually it’s cold when you get it,” said Joelle DuFault, a freshman English secondary education major. “Which I do understand is what happens when you have large food-based establishments, but [it’s] ice-cold, underseasoned or sometimes just not good. Period.”

The College has taken various steps to acknowledge these problems at the Atrium. In a campus-wide email from Sept. 28, Sean Stallings, the vice president of Student Affairs, acknowledged the problems at the dining hall and promised to bring about solutions to the aforementioned problems. Multiple text hotlines have also been available that take dining hall complaints and promises to respond to them, one being the new MyDtxt feature and an existing hotline where students can text TCNJDining to 82257 to voice complaints.

“TCNJ makes every effort to ensure that all of our students have a high-quality experience,” Stallings wrote. “Clearly, from the reports we have received about dining, we have fallen short of our own expectations.”

Keith Murray, the general manager of the dining hall, explained that the problems at the Atrium stem largely from the national labor shortage and from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. He explained that problems from Covid-19 have impacted every aspect of the food supply chain.

“Currently, we are experiencing shortages in both our supply chain and in staffing,” Murray said. “We know this is a temporary situation, and are working closely with local, regional and national food suppliers to anticipate supply shortages early and find alternative food sources.”

The labor shortages described by Murray impact the process of food supply from the very beginning of the chain when the food is first grown and produced. Even beyond the staffing problems at the dining hall itself, the food industry is seeing a reduced number of delivery drivers among other important positions.

“The primary challenge faced by growers and farmers is finding enough workers to harvest crops,” Murray said. “For manufacturers and processors, inaccurate forecasting resulted in manufacturers being slow to rebuild their inventory and many are still operating at reduced capacity.”

Customer service is another issue that has been reported on by students. Murray further addresses these concerns by explaining how the actual procedure for food running out will be handled in the foreseeable future.

“Each shift has a clear person in charge in the kitchen so all team members know who to notify when we are running low on food so that we can ensure we prepare more food in time,” Murray said. “In addition, we reinforce our employees’ customer service training at our daily huddles to ensure they inform students when we need to go to the kitchen for more food, are waiting for food to finish cooking and assure our students that we are not out of food.”

The Atrium at Eickhoff Hall was open to families and parents of College students during Family Day, and many parents reported similar conditions that were described by students. Concerned parents noted how their students reported that the food was remarkably better on Family Day.

In light of these issues at the dining hall, the College has proposed various new solutions to improve the relationship between Dining Services and the students. Stallings reported in an email on Oct. 3 that the College was planning to implement several new systems and changes to the current meal system that would improve the general situation at the Atrium. Among these changes was the implementation of a student dining ambassador program and additional flex points to students who were on the 19-meals-a-week-plan. It is worth noting that this email was sent to families two days before it was sent to students.

Both Stallings and Murray urge students to come forward with any further complaints about the food and service at the Atrium at Eickhoff. Murray in particular also urges students to pass along the word to anyone searching for work that the Atrium is hiring and looking for extra help.

“Ask for a manager or supervisor, or use MyDtxt to let us know about your dining experience,” Murray said. “We welcome any and all students that would like to get involved to come to the Dining Services Committee meetings!”




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