Food Fight

Have the changes to Stetson's dining hall come with any improvements?

Colette Cacciola, Executive Editor, The Reporter

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The original version of this story was published in October 2018 issue of The Reporter. It has been edited appropriately to maintain relevance and clarity.

Since the new Commons opened at the beginning of this academic year, a lot of student opinions and rumors have been flying. Naturally, they caught my attention, so I decided to look into it further by contacting the dining staff directly to address not only the stories I had heard, but their own stories and their experiences so far in this state-of-the-art space. This interview took place in September of 2018.

The last time I had a meal plan was three years ago, before construction had even begun on the new space, and before the old space had even been closed. This is far from what is now the the experience of the average student, who most likely underwent the many transitional phases over the past couple of years to finally see the Fall 2018 grand opening of something larger and more advanced than any of us had ever seen or worked with before.

Marie Destinvil, the Director of Residential Dining, was the first to greet me as I entered the dining office in the CUB, and our conversation began with how immense a change the staff has undergone in the transition process. “We’re still finding the groove,” she told me, smiling. Further, we discussed the ever-expanding menu and how students can effect change.

Both Marie and one of the chefs, David, who joined our conversation soon after it began, talked about the work that goes into serving 2,000 meals a day, as well as the fact that everyone was coming into this blind. The Commons opened only a week before the Fall semester began, and so had little time to do a test run before enduring everything a true meal period entails. Because of this, dining lost several staff who had been unprepared for “the full workload, and how large a venture” running a large cafeteria truly is, according to David.

Curious, I asked a little more about this, and was surprised to find that Stetson Dining Services had hired over ten people in the two weeks before our talk in September, and at that point was almost fully staffed. Additional people have been assigned to each station to better handle the students coming by, which should become increasingly obvious as we continue to progress. Because Dining Services had at that point been working with the new space for two months, Marie was glad to say that the newly hired employees are being given a “better expectation of what is involved” in the position they apply for.

Students will be able to see the results of this learning curve in the form of more efficient serving, a greater amount of and more detailed signage at each meal station, and perhaps specials that rotate throughout the day and an expansion of the menu.

Something that cropped up in the earlier part of the Fall semester was the rumor that several students had contracted salmonella from their food–however, having only heard this from one or two people I was interested in the validity of the rumor. Dining Services has been taking large strides to reconcile rumor with reality; there was a reported case of salmonella, but Marie emphasized that it was from a student who seldom ate at the Commons, and she and Taylor Mills, Coordinator of Marketing and Finance, both described the rigorous inspections that had subsequently been undertaken. There is no evidence of salmonella in any of the food, and health checks will continue being made to ensure things stay that way. 

All of this said, what can students do if they have further questions or concerns? Already strides have been made toward improvement, especially since the staff have settled in and have figured out how to field feedback based on their understanding of the new space. We discussed using social media for the staff’s advantage to alert students when equipment is down so there are no surprises when students can’t grab a soda or a coffee, or when something otherwise notable occurs.

Above all, the most important thing to do is ask;  everyone I spoke to seemed to agree. The individuals working know what is in the food and are happy to tell you, and the comment and opinion stations in the Commons give even more opportunity to let Dining Services know what you think. Additionally, questions and feedback can be sent to 1-386-456-3103, or can be submitted through the survey here: https://www.bvfpulse.com/prod/pulse.site/t/38WP.

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