Volume 97 Issue 5 Campus Spin

Snackin’ and moanin’

by Piper McGonigle

“J.C. Food Service—Could Be Worse”

Kandy Foust, The Juniatian, October 11, 1973, Vol. XLVV, No. 2

   “It’s Thursday, around supper time, and you figure you might as well head on down to Ellis and see what they’ve cooked up this week to take the place of steak night. Perhaps it will be Spanish night, complete with a simulated bullfight, or even Chilean night, where the local American Legion comes in and takes over the Student Government for one evening.

     But seriously, the Hallmark Food Service, (Juniata’s finest), like all food industries at this time, is having to deal with skyrocketing food costs. Unlike some food industries, Juniata’s food service cannot directly pass this increase on to the consumer because they must operate on a fixed budget. Here they are faced with a double dilemma. They must somehow keep their cost down and yet still maintain a reasonably high quality of food product and service. This they have accomplished, but it has meant the end of steak night, at least for the foreseeable future. The food service feels that the board-paying student would much prefer losing one steak a week than lose total food quality the rest of the week.

     Some students have been asking why there isn’t a rebate policy for meals missed, especially when the meals missed are considerable. This seems to be a reasonable request, but in actuality Juniata students rarely pay for all that they eat. In presenting a board estimate to the administration, the food service first figures out the percentage of attendance for each meal and each day of the week. Some weekends, such a Parent’s Weekend or Homecoming, are going to have higher attendance figures and this must be taken into consideration. These percentages are averaged together to arrive at an approximate overall attendance percentage. This figure is the one used in determining the board costs. So if you eat almost every meal on campus, you’re really getting your money’s worth.

     Another complaint heard around campus is with the portioning procedure. Some students feel that the portions given are too small: they “couldn’t fill up your grandmother.” There are two reasons why this is done with the main courses: (1) to cut waste and (2) to gear production in the kitchen. The food service figures out approximately how many portions per tray. This gives the kitchen more time to prepare the food and thus, alleviates some of the waiting for firsts. New innovations this year include the self-service vegetable tray and the dining room seconds table. The first of these innovations allows the student to pile up his plate with vegetables—the sky’s the limit! The second eliminates some of the time spent in getting refills.

     All this and you’re still not satisfied? Well, tell it to Ed or Phil; they aim to please. Hallmark Food Service would like to keep our business so they’re responsive to student complaints. Your ideas will be listened to.

     So, chin up! Compared to the food services in most other schools, believe me, we haven’t got it so bad.”

 

Some things never change, I guess. Students will always be twitching and moaning about cafeteria food, regardless of the company serving in it. Whether it’s Sodexo Corporation or Hallmark Food Company, you name the company, they all have flaws.

I agree with the message from 1973 that food service could certainly be worse, even today.

However, the author of the 1973 article seems to suggest acceptance of lackluster food and dining plans and discourages looking too closely at the issues that bother us. The article suggests that the company serving us should be trusted without question. I have to say I disagree.

Several points the article discusses do hold true today. For instance, in order to get better food, we would have to be willing to spend more money on it. This could have an impact on our tuition, as the administration might be unable to shift current funds into dining costs. Some students might be willing to pay more, though others may not. This raises the question of where our money is being spent if not on food. Could we spend more on providing higher quality food if, say, we spent less on mowing the lawns?

While I am also sure you could still find a worse example of a college cafeteria, I don’t imagine there are many.

At least we don’t have carefully regulated portions like the students had in 1973. That would be received very angrily by today’s student body.

Friends of mine at other schools have a constantly changing menu, a greater variety of dishes and multiple vegan choices. Schools like Lewis and Clarke College, University of Colorado, Portland State University and Denison University—schools larger than Juniata, but also smaller ones—are providing their students with far healthier and locally sourced food options. They serve fresh vegetables and fruit, and offer multiple places to eat and longer serving hours.

Juniata is a small school, yes, but I question whether part of the trade-off for a small school has to be cheap, unhealthy food. In contrast to 1973, food prices today are not “skyrocketing.” In fact, as a nation we have more food than we can eat and throw out millions of dollars of food every year. I feel rather jilted when considering my wilted lettuce and endless hot-dog-type meals.

Additionally, the rebate policy on meals is an issue still relevant today. Juniata’s upperclassmen have the option of choosing a meal plan, but freshmen are required to pay for the nineteen-meals-per-week meal plan. Personally, I will often eat only one of those three meals, and I never eat three, yet I am still paying for all of them.

I know this is a reasonable attempt to help freshmen and make sure they are eating, but it is still frustrating to many students.

An issue today that wasn’t mentioned in 1973 involves the lack of healthy food. It greatly upsets me that the majority of our food choices are unhealthy, especially when some other universities serve healthy, nutritious food to their students. There should be a balance between cost and quality. Having a salad every day as the only non-processed option can be rather sad.

I know that no food service will be perfect. Yet, I think it is important to air our grievances.

Do not be afraid of being perceived as discontent. After all, to create change, a person has to make noise.. Within the confines of the College, better food could be provided were it made a priority.

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