Overhaul on the Dining Hall: Food Forum Recap

On April 20, the Residence Hall Student Association (RHSA) and The Student Association held a food concerns forum in the Student Union Building with Executive Director of Campus Auxiliary Services, Steven Deutsch and general manager of Sodexo, Michael Cavalier. About a dozen students attended. 

Prior to the forum, Deutsch was aware of some food concerns; primarily, a lack of vegan and vegetarian options and issues with GrubHub. Other issues brought up were prices, variety and quality of the food.

The attendees discuss concerns pertaining to food availability for those with dietary restrictions as well as contamination issues for those with said restrictions. 

Deutsch describes the chief takeaways being, “concerns about proper labeling of food, training of staff to be sensitive to allergens and restricted diets and providing enough variety for those on restricted diets.”

  “It was eye opening to see the extent of food deprivation some students feel. Many of the changes we will be rolling out immediately will be to address those urgent needs,” said Deutsch.

During the forum, Cavalier wrote down the individual concerns and created solutions to each.

The concerns were divided into categories labeled: Peregrine, Celiac options on campus, office hours, Snack Shack, Starbucks, Element 93, Sweets and Treats, WOW and Vegan. 

Students complained that dirty dishes and silverware are out for use. The staff will be retrained on soaking and washing of silverware and to look at all dishes before they are stacked and will be re-washed when necessary. 

Another complaint is that there is a lack of food rotation and variety. The variety is being addressed by the Sodexo team and Cavalier and the chef are working to create a better rotation of food. 

Another issue mentioned was that the labeling of items is inaccurate or changes day to day. An example provided was that coleslaw is labeled gluten free (GF) one day and not the next. The team will be looking at the Bite app and training with the chef to ensure labels are more accurate. 

Furthermore, students said that labels for items saying vegetarian when there is meat and vegan where there is cheese: small signs will be put in place ASAP to note if the food is vegan, vegetarian and gluten free.

Another issue brought up was that WOW has no gluten free bread: gluten free bread has been ordered. Students were also questioning about how SubConnection meats are marked as not gluten free. As a result, the labels have been looked at and it has been modified. GrubHub has been contacted to address the issue that GrubHub images are not all correct and there are no allergen labels.

Students also said that there is a lack of office hours available for students. Cavalier will make himself available if needed to meet with students. Another complaint was that board meals at Element 93 end at 3:00 p.m., which has been addressed and changed. Students complained that Element 93 doesn’t always have vegan soup options; this has also been addressed and changed. 

Finally, students raised the issues that there are no GF or vegan labels on bakery items at Sweets and Treats, vegan products are cooked with meat on the flat top and that board meals are not vegan. As a result, small signs will be set up in the cases, the flat top will be cleaned thoroughly prior to cooking vegan products and vegan meal options have been added to SubConnection, WOW, Pomodoros and Element 93.

“I am happy to attend SA forums, I think a more effective way to meet would be to establish a group, in person and virtual, for students with diet restrictions or allergen concerns to meet and comment regularly with Mike and me. If we do this at the start of the fall semester, we can improve communication between students and Sodexo, we can better inform as well as hear about issues before they become real problems. We plan to start this in the fall,” concluded Deutsch.

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About Zoe Woolrich 57 Articles
Zoe Woolrich (she/her) is the Editor-in-Chief of The Oracle. Over the past five semesters she has served as Copy Editor, News Editor and Managing Editor. She is fourth-year media management major from New York City. You can contact her at woolricz1@newpaltz.edu.