By Lucas Vacco
The instability of dining services at the College has tarnished its reputation among the campus community. Sodexo, the College’s food service provider, and the College’s dining services are responsible for the food that is produced and the staff hired to serve the food. The students at the College have raised concerns about food quality and service, specifically at the Atrium at Eickhoff Hall.
These concerns have received the attention of leadership at the College. On Sept. 28, Vice President of Student Affairs Sean Stallings sent an email to the College community addressing the concerns the students have raised. Stallings made it clear that he is in communication with the leadership of Sodexo and that changes are underway.
To combat the challenges the College is facing by the dining services, Student Government (SG) facilitated a dining services committee meeting at their Sept. 29 meeting. Leadership from the dining services team was in attendance at the meeting to address issues and concerns.
Keith Murray, general manager of the College’s dining services team, explained that the team is aware of the issues that are arising at Eickhoff Hall and that the College’s dining services are quickly working on changes to accommodate the students’ needs.
The reasoning behind the issues of the dining services was also explained. The challenges interfering with the functionality of food service at the College include staff shortages and issues with the supply chain.
“We have been faced with a staffing shortage as well as other places. That is the biggest challenge we are facing right now. We also have a supply chain challenge that has been going on. We had at least one major delivery each week canceled by our vendor and had to shuffle things around and send our own service vehicles and vans to warehouses and things like that to get supplies,” Murray said.
These challenges have caused employees to work long hours, hindering the quality of service. This has made the dining services team eager to hire staff as quickly as possible.
“We have most of our employees working extra shifts [and] doubles. Many of them are working six or seven days, and we are trying to hire staff as fast as we can. We have been trying to hire since June, and we have been having job fairs and posting ads. We are doing referral bonuses and doing sign-on bonuses and a lot of things like that,” Murray said in regards to staffing shortages. “We have our HR department spending the vast majority of the time going through applications and interviewing and putting people through the process to get them on board as fast as possible.”
The dining services team assured the College community that they are working on the issues as quickly as possible and believe they have it under control. It was explained that they are improving the services and that they have seen progress.
Murray noted that the team was aware of concerns about food quality, specifically mentioning pictures of fruit and pizza with flies on them and undercooked chicken.
“There have been some issues and some concerns, some problems as far as good quality … There is no excuse for that. We are rectifying that. We feel like we have a good handle on it now,” Murray explained. He also said that managers are now working longer and more each week in order to address problems as they arise.
At the meeting, students did not shy away from voicing their concerns about issues including the staff shortage, services through an alternative company, the portion sizes and the quality of food, to name a few.
Freshman political science major Jared Williams joined the discussion and emphasized his concern with the process of hiring more people due to the shortage of staff.
“The biggest concerns we have with dining services are the portion sizes at Eickhoff, understaffing thus causing certain areas to be closed and the disintegrating of meal equiv. In terms of portion sizes, they addressed that at the meeting and I have noticed improvements which is great. The understaffing they also addressed but it needs to be fixed as soon as possible so there are more options in Eickhoff,'' Williams said.
Junior communications major Joseph Dioslaki expressed his concern about the mental and physical state of the students who are being negatively affected by the dining services at the College.
“My concerns are that we as students are going to suffer not just physically, but mentally too. The poor experience we are having at the dining hall is affecting our well-being on many levels. By us eating bad food, or sometimes no food at all, it’s a given that we are lacking the proper nutrients to function sufficiently. We as students do not have the time to feel lethargic and it’s especially unfair that this is what we are paying for,” Dioslaki said.
Concerned parents joined the discussion as well and relayed their concerns about the meal plans. It was addressed that meal equivalency was no longer an option at the College because it caused crowds of students at various dining locations on campus, which caused disappointment in the College community. The increase in points on the meal plans substituted for the meal equivalency.
Dining service representatives are well aware of the issues that dining services at the College are facing. Throughout the duration of the meeting, they made it clear that they are making changes to improve the dining experience at the College, but concerned students and parents do not feel like they are being heard enough. Significant changes will have to be made to the College’s dining services in the coming weeks to gain the trust of the campus community.