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Survey highlights need for change in Dining services

Junior Edgar Haro self-serves breakfast on Nov. 14, 2023.

Students asked for more healthy food options on campus in a recent survey. The survey sent out to students was a way to get formal feedback from students so Principia Dining Services could adjust its practices and offerings, according to Assistant Director of Dining Services Aubrey Smith. She said the survey, which covered all four of Principia Dining’s options, the Dining room The Pub, the College Store, and vending machines, needed 200 responses to be considered statistically accurate. The survey closed on Wed, Oct. 25 with only 122 responses.

Smith said that the staff in Dining Services was already making changes to help students. “At the end of the day we are here for the students,” she said. Part of that, she said was working toward serving food all day long.

“Speaking from an athlete’s perspective, the food isn’t healthy enough,” sophomore Wizzy Afrani told the Pilot. He said he also took the survey. 

Other survey takers seemed to agree. Many said they wanted to see things like, “Less fatty foods,”, “More variety of fresh vegetables and fruit,” and, “Healthier, fresher options.”

Speaking from an athlete’s perspective, the food isn’t healthy enough,

Sophomore Wizzy Afrani

More than 68% of students who took the survey indicated they would like to see more healthy foods as of Oct.18.

Smith said the survey early on reiterated what the staff in Dining Services has heard from the students. “We want more veggies and lean meats,” she said. “We want people to be happy and healthy.”

Many people brought up portion sizes on the survey. One of the respondents called for “an increase in a lot of food portions.” 

Emily Kraack, a junior, told the Pilot, “My athlete friends have to buy more meal points to get enough food.” 

Students also said they wanted more vegan and vegetarian options. “As a vegan, their options haven’t been spectacular,” Senior Hannah Dow said.  “There were days where there weren’t vegan options,” Dow said variety had gotten better as of late, but it was still difficult to get healthy – affordable- breakfast vegan options

To keep non-vegans from eating food specially made for vegans, according to Smith, the dining hall staff is starting to have vegan food available upon request.

One of the respondents on the survey said, “The vegetarian and vegan options aren’t sufficient, nobody wants to just eat salad for every meal,” while others complained that salad bar prices were too high.

Trey McCart, the director of Dining Services, said his department is changing the way the salad bar is priced.“We’re looking at those items that don’t fit within the pricing structure,” he said. He is referring to items on the salad bar that may be driving up the cost of salads.

The Pub, a place junior Gavin Brustman described as  “a center point for social life on campus”, also received criticism on the survey. 

A respondent commented, “Whenever I order a burger at the pub, the lettuce is often wilted and the tomatoes have the stem part still on it.”

The Pub changed its menu this semester. It’s now not possible to customize orders.“I tried to customize my order, like I used to, but was not allowed to,” said sophomore Aaron Nutwell.

One of the survey respondents said they would like to have more liberty in The Pub as in the past.

Recent changes in the dining hall sparked discussion among students according to Brustman. Two of the things talked about were the recent removal of Mr. Donut (a local restaurant in Godfrey) Donuts and Panera Bagels. Both of these were brought in one day a week and were favorites according to students 

Smith said Dining Services was losing money by selling these products.

“We will have similar-sized bagels all the time now,” McCart said. These bagels will be brought in from the school’s food distributor Sysco, he added. As for the donuts, Dining Services staff said they are set to replace store-bought with in-house made.

In October Dining Services shifted breakfast to self-serve. This means no hot food options for breakfast. The move raised concern among students, especially athletes who play on Saturday, McCart said.

In response, Dining Services sent a note to coaches after the first Saturday of continental breakfast letting them know that they can request hot breakfast if their players are going to come through, McCart said.

This story was published in Issue IV Fall 2023.

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