According to a food quality survey from The Equinox, some students are questioning if the dining commons (DC), Hoot ’n’ Scoot and Lloyd’s Marketplace are experiencing changes in food quality. With Keene State College in the midst of budget cuts, concerns have arisen as to whether food services on campus have been impacted. This year, students and faculty members have noticed that Lloyd’s Marketplace is closing earlier than in previous years. This change in hours has sparked discussion as to how the DC and Hoot ’n’ Scoot might be affected.
One hundred and seventeen students responded to the food quality survey, which accounts for about 3 percent of KSC’s population. However, a large percentage of respondents have shown to be unsatisfied with the quality of food. Over 50 percent of respondents said the DC needs “significant improvement,” while over 60 percent said DC meals are “much worse” compared to off campus or home-cooked meals.
Food services such as the DC are large operations. Most students who have meal plans may not understand the complex web of entities Sodexo must communicate with. Sodexo supplies all foods and services that maintain the DC, according to Sodexo’s General Manager Josef Quirinale. The quality of food at the DC is dependent on many things, including the KSC administration who regulates the budget, food hubs which provide the raw ingredients for sodexo, and the students whose tuition pays for the DC. Quirinale elaborated on how multiple entities must be satisfied before Sodexo can move forward. “I act as the liaison between the company, the college, the dining service and the staff. I am also responsible for making sure that we meet the standards not only that the company dictates, but that the campus dictates,” he said. “Really, I’m answering two masters, three if you count the students.” Sodexo has 10 managers on staff.
The DC and Hoot ’n’ Scoot have endured changes since the campus’ budget cuts. Food prices continue to fluctuate, and certain foods must be reduced or eliminated to satisfy KSC’s budget requirements, according to Quirinale.
There is no single entity to blame, but rather the state, national and global economy as a whole. Director of Campus Life Jennifer Ferrell explained how Sodexo accommodates for these losses. “If we have fewer students, we have fewer fee dollars coming in and we have a smaller budget,” Ferrell said. “We’ve been doing small tweaks. Instead of doing something weekly, we might do it bi-weekly. Or instead of adjusting the building hours, we adjust the office hours.”
Ferrell outlined that KSC’s approach to saving money is by changing various aspects of the DC only slightly. This prevents large holes in the operation by dispersing reductions in office hours, meals and some events.
Sodexo still manages to provide healthy options, even in the midst of budget problems. Sections like the Granite State Salad Co., Valley Vegan and Global Cuisine stir fry station remain open so students and faculty can meet their dietary requirements according to Sodexo’s Registered Dietician and Marketing Manager Rebecca Hunt.
Another hurdle for Sodexo and the school is accommodating for those with allergies or dietary constraints. With a student population more than 3,000, many have dietary needs which must be met. Surprisingly, healthy sections like Valley Vegan and the Granite State Salad Co. have been around for quite some time. “It’s relatively easy for us to meet the needs of students, even if they have multiple dietary restrictions. We pretty much have a grocery store in our building,” Hunt said. “The salad bar has definitely been around for a while. Valley Vegan started in my early days; it’s been around for about 15 years.”
As previously said by Quirinale and Ferrell,the DC strives to maintain high quality food for KSC students during struggling financial times. Their number one priority, Quirinale and Ferrell said, is to minimize change so students and faculty are not deprived of certain foods and services.
There is no single entity responsible for recent changes, as said previously by Quirinale and Ferrell. The DC is largely influenced by the national and global economy. If there is a national or global shortage of a specific food, the DC is directly impacted. A 2018 summary of findings released by the USDA shows a 1.7 percent increase in food prices from January 2017. Changes in the DC could reflect larger economic issues as a country. For example, meals with beef have been served less frequently compared to meals with poultry, which have been on the incline according to Quirinale. This relates to rising prices of beef in the U.S., and might continue to increase unless prices reduce in the future according to an article from Investopedia.
Garrett McNamee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org