By Rachel Lea
Students have begun to come forward about their recent experiences with raw meat at the Atrium at Eickhoff. This comes after the Atrium opened for the fall semester about a month ago.
“They are just putting out whatever they have,” said sophomore electrical engineering major Cheyenne Torraca. “And if [we] do not do anything about it, it is just going to get consistently worse.”
Eickhoff Hall is supposed to be the main source of food for students on campus, providing them with a buffet from more than ten mini restaurants. Yet many students, including Torraca, are claiming to find raw meat on their plates that could be described as ‘barbie-pink’.
“I guess Eickhoff has always had raw meat,” said Torraca. “I do not remember dates as much, but sometime this week or the previous week, they definitely had raw chicken.”
What is more concerning is that this problem extends beyond a few weeks. According to Jeffan Amadee, a freshman music education major, the Atrium has been serving uncooked meat since Welcome Week.
“I was stopping at [the Atrium] with some friends to get something to eat before I had to go to one of my Welcome Week seminars,” said Amadee. “I bit into [my] burger, and it was pinkish…I did not even finish the entirety of it.”
This has given new students a horrible first impression of the College, especially Amadee.
“I was like, ‘Okay, [the burger was] probably medium-rare,’” explained Amadee. “But I started walking to Forcina Hall. I was climbing the flight of stairs and I needed to throw up. I ran to the bathroom and started puking in the toilet…I was not feeling good at all.”
Thankfully, Amadee was taken to the hospital immediately after contacting Campus Police. Although he was given medication and released after a few hours, he considers the trip a major inconvenience.
When Nelson Morales, the resident district manager of dining services, was asked about the situation, he insisted that the safety and well-being of the students was Sodexo’s top priority. He also mentioned that the New Jersey Department of Health visited the Atrium on Sept. 19 for an inspection and gave the dining hall a satisfactory rating.
“Sodexo at [the College] takes food safety extremely seriously,” said Morales. “Our team has two full-time sanitarians on staff and a contracted third-party inspector who performs quarterly inspections; this is in addition to other onsite initiatives including daily huddles with managers, chefs and the greater staff intended to assess shortages in supply chain and staffing as well as reviewal of food safety procedures.”
Students, however, disagree and have come up with multiple theories as to why raw meat is being served. Most of them boil down to the staff.
Torraca believes that the staff may need more time to prepare food throughout the day. In fact, she suspects that they may need more training in general.
“I saw that [the Atrium] got a new rotisserie machine,” said Torraca. “And that was when I noticed that the raw meat kept getting more and more frequent. So, I do not think [the staff] know how to use it.”
Amadee, however, is convinced that the source of the raw meat is the staff’s own carelessness. This became apparent when he went back to the Atrium to complain about his burger.
“I got the classic ‘Oh, we are sorry’ and one free meal swipe,” said Amadee. “That sure is going to make a difference in the $2,500 I pay for my swipes every week….They said they check the temperatures of all the meat, but I do not really believe that. How do you get away with having literally raw food?”
Unfortunately, this is not the first time students have clashed with the dining hall. In 2021, the Atrium was understaffed after the College re-emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic. This lack of trained workers introduced a host of problems, including students being served bleeding chicken.
The College responded to these complaints by promising to increase recruitment efforts and to train their staff more efficiently. The College also gave students $100 worth of additional flex points as an apology.
History, however, seems to be repeating itself, and students agree that permanent changes in quality control are needed.
“They need to fix the problem,” said Torraca. “No amount of points is going to be able to allow us to afford other healthy options on campus, because there are just not any that exist.”
Students are encouraged to email firstname.lastname@example.org or text “TCNJDining” to 82257 to voice any complaints related to dining services. There is also dining representative next to the Atrium’s salad bar ready to address any concerns.