James Kirwan and Joey Mannarino John Borczon English 102 2/28/13 Drexel Dining Not Meeting Basic Needs
As any college student knows, the quality of a school’s dining hall is extremely important. To be successful as students, it is an absolute must that a student is strong and healthy. One of the keys to being strong and healthy is a healthy and balanced diet, filled with a variety of foods. At Drexel, we are being deprived of this necessity. While we do have a dining hall that is open for most of our day, actually eating there is an issue. For all freshmen at Drexel, a dining plan is required.
There are three different traditional meal plans, ranging from a hefty $1,830 to $1,915. All three traditional plans revolve around the Handshumacher Dining Center. The custom meal plans also provide various options, but in the end, focus around the Handshumacher Dining Center as well. The meal plans are outrageously expensive; however, considering the tuition most students are paying, this is not the issue. The issue is the quality of food in the dining hall. It is one matter for students not to enjoy the food that they eat, but even more of a concern when the food they are eating is unsafe to be eaten.
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Just in the last few weeks, at least 10 people have been bed ridden for days due to, what they believe, to be food poisoning from the Handshumacher Dining Center. This is a major problem. Once a person has contracted a food-borne illness, participating in academics and/or extracurricular activities becomes nearly impossible, affecting students’ lives and grades severely. With students potentially in danger of becoming sick and being affected in their academics, this is more than just disliking the dining hall. The Handschumacher Dining Center is not clean by any means at all.
After eating there a few times, occurrences such as finding a single black hair in our mashed potatoes and flakes of crude in our drinks became a regular ordeal. When trying to get soda from the soda machine there would be various particles coming from the machine itself. Once it comes out of the dirty machine, it will then go into one of the glass cups provided by the dining center. These are rarely cleaned properly and there always spots and other residue on them (see below). This is also a major problem with the utensils and even the plates.
There is simply no excuse for this, as we are paying a good amount of money for the dining hall. The entire dining hall environment is a disgrace. Upon entering the dining hall, you are lead down a flight of stairs into a dull gray basement with next to no natural lighting. The area where the food is prepared for the student’s is not visible, and based on the food that is served, probably for good reason. Once our tray is filled with whatever sub-par food they have prepared for us, we are to go into a very poorly designed seating area. The eating environment is far from pleasant.
Half the challenge is finding a table that is clean enough to eat at, as the tables are not regularly cleaned off when students leave them. One could argue that it is the students’ responsibility to keep the tables clean, but this is simply illogical. If there are people being paid to clean the tables, a student is not going to go out of their way in making sure their area is cleaned. The lack of cleanliness of the dining center extends beyond the seating area. If what we see out in the seating area is bad, what goes on behind the scenes is even worse.
In a December 2010 Pennsylvania Food Code inspection, there were “mouse feces found in the kitchens and storage areas, fruit flies observed underneath a self-serve beverage station and lack of a dedicated sink for mop-water disposal, among other violations” (Strauss). The Triangle, Drexel’s newspaper, has various accounts recorded about the Handschumacher Dining Center, one of which includes a student seeing a live mouse running around. In these conditions, it is just about impossible for any food prepared to possibly be sanitary.
This January, The Triangle published another article that discusses students receiving food poisoning and even the norovirus from the Handschumacher Dining Terrace. Norovirus is a highly contagious virus usually transmitted through undercooked food and occasionally direct contact with an infected person. The student who contracted the norovirus ended up being sent to the ER. In the Drexel Facebook group there are posts weekly that complain about food poisoning or stomach aches caused from this dining hall. One of those students is Maggie Heath-Bourne.
She “personally know[s] a good deal of people who have gotten sick” from this dining center. She was unable to attend her Wednesday classes. Maggie also positive that the dining center caused her illness “because [she] had been really rushed at the beginning of the week and only had time to go [to the Hans] on Monday and Tuesday, [and she] got sick on Wednesday. ” Since the university basically requires its freshman to eat at this dining hall, something needs to be done. There is no reason students should be scared for their health by eating at their own dining hall.
The issues above are absolutely unacceptable for our dining hall, but in actuality, these are issues faced by quite a few dining halls around the country. In examining the various dining halls that have had problems there seems to be one common thread- the food production company Sodexo. We asked friends of ours how satisfied they were with their dining halls. Those who were happy with their dining halls went to schools that did not have Sodexo. Most of these students’ dining halls were controlled by Aramark. In further research, it became apparent that Sodexo is the root of our problems at Drexel.
The same types of problems that we had at Drexel were faced by students at Fordham University, who also contracts Sodexo. An excerpt of the inspection read: “The inspections unearthed evidence of mice, roaches and improper storage of food, shortcomings that placed Fordham eateries in the lowest grade bracket” (Ram Online). This is concerning not only for Fordham students but for any school that allows Sodexo to control its dining environment. The case at Fordham got so out of hand that the dining hall was required to be shut down for a little while. Once it was finally opened back up, the tudents decided to hold a protest. However, this protest got them absolutely nowhere. At Drexel, there has to be a solution that we can execute to get a decent selection of food in our dining hall. At Fordham University, the method of a protest failed, as Sodexo still stayed as the school’s main food supplier. Sodexo claims on its website that it has a board of students that overview it’s dining services. This board of students does not have a representative from Drexel University on it. If we had some input about our dining hall through this board, maybe there would be some action taken.
Another solution we could execute is introducing a board of various students that oversees and works with the kitchen staff to make sure the meals are both well prepared and well varied. These students would need to be Drexel students who frequent the dining hall. By being on this board, they will receive no benefits towards their dining hall plans or anything of the sorts. It would be a totally transparent board also. This way, students would have an outlet to go to to complain about the problems in this dining hall. The way it is set up now, it is extremely hard to get a meeting with anyone in the dining hall.
For the purpose of this paper we attempted to set up a meeting with the director of residential living on campus. It took us about an entire month to schedule a meeting with this man. For a campus environment that can be fair to all, the food staff needs to be much more accessible. It is ridiculous that we have to wait so long for a meeting with someone who can make a change for us. This student board could supervise Sodexo until its contract with Drexel University is over. However, as soon as possible getting Sodexo out of Drexel’s dining hall would be ideal.
This company has proven time and time again throughout the country that it cannot maintain a dining environment. Sure, it can provide food, but not good or safe food. This student leadership board could take a look at other food companies that are doing a better job satisfying both students’ needs and also pass health inspections. Drexel has decent dining options outside of the dining hall. There is a second dining option, accessible only through our dining dollars which is kept fairly clean. The food choices are from chains across the country. The election of food is not the best, but at least it is kept clean. This would probably not be the direction for our dining hall to go in. Drexel has a faculty dining hall, run by Sodexo, which is treated in a different manner entirely then the Handschumacher Dining Center. Why should the students be getting second rate food when they are paying for a meal plan? Also, Drexel just received a large scale grant that is going to a renovation project for the area outside of the main building. With this money, Drexel could have begun production on a dining hall run by the 12th Street Caterers, also a Drexel company.
With so many possible solutions why do we allow Drexel to continue to feed us the same dirty and poorly made food? We have to find some sort of way to make sure that Drexel implements the student’s opinions into choosing a new plan and direction for its dining hall. To start, we must set up some sort of board for students to voice their opinions directly to Sodexo. From there, we must see what we can do to get Sodexo out, and using this same board of students, create a new solution that pleases all students and also follows health standards. No matter what we do, we cannot keep going in the manner that we are going.
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