Dining Committee Seeks to Increase Transparency

Chair of the Dining Committee sophomore Jenny Lundt and 17 other students have investigated operations at both Frank Dining Hall and the O’Connor Campus Center (COOP) throughout the Fall 2016 semester. The committee has met twice this year to discuss new environmental initiatives recently implemented, as well as an increased number of food options for students to choose from.

There has been a heightened focus on a clean plate project, which seeks to minimize food waste. The waste from Frank Dining Hall is being recorded weekly, and at the end of the semester the difference between the highest and lowest number of the recorded waste will be donated in fresh food to individuals in the Village of Hamilton. In the COOP, a new rule has been recently implemented to reduce the amount of waste: students are only allowed to use a “meal swipe” once between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. 

Although this greatly reduces the amount of waste, this new initiative was not introduced without controversy. Sophomore Stina Ladd was troubled by the initiative’s impact on the eating habits of students.

“The ‘one swipe’ rule promotes not eating as much, which can be harmful in terms of people with body image issues or eating disorders,” Ladd said.

Regarding the new food options, the COOP has introduced a new sushi bar, where chefs hand-make fresh sushi daily. The sushi bar is located where the smoothie bar, now located in the C-Store, once was. 

Junior Noah Cartwright considered the relocation of the smoothie bar an effective and much-needed change in the COOP.

“The strategic placement of the smoothie bar reduces the amount of chaos when trying to walk through the COOP because there are no longer a bunch of people waiting around for smoothies,” Cartwright said. “It’s so much easier to swipe my card and find a seat now.”   

The COOP also relocated the Chobani bar, a very popular option among students. Its new placement accommodates more yogurt, granola, fruit, peanut butter and other toppings than its old location did. This change has presumably enabled staff members to fulfill their basic duties without having to constantly replenish the Chobani bar. 

Sophomore Rachel Smith appreciated the relocation of the Chobani bar in the COOP.

“I love the new location of the Chobani bar because it’s closer to the oatmeal in the morning,” Smith said.

Furthermore, the COOP has also recently introduced Tex-Mex, and Frank Dining Hall has created a new pasta bar where students can hand-pick their toppings and watch their pasta be freshly made in front of them. In addition to these various changes in the COOP, Frank Dining Hall’s allergy-free section has been relocated to protect the station from food cross-contamination.

Chartwells representatives came to the senate meeting last Tuesday to discuss these new changes. The students on the committee provided suggestions regarding the things that have not been running smoothly at the COOP and at Frank Dining Hall. The committee also created a survey, sent to students in late October, asking for student feedback regarding the food this year. 

David Porter, CEO of Porter Khouw Consulting (PKC), and Carolyn Watkins, Vice President of PKC, came to campus last week to conduct their annual contract compliance and satisfaction survey. They came to the committee meeting and held three additional focus groups to gather feedback from all areas of campus. Their conversations focused on a wide variety of subtopics, including quality of food, environment, allergy considerations, menu variety, healthfulness, hours of operation and meal plans. 

The committee has stated that it will provide more frequent updates about dining changes and additions.