On the night of November 12, students were given the opportunity to sit down with Sodexo employees in a forum to air their concerns about Champlain College’s dining hall options and overall food quality.
The forum began with the Student Government Association’s Education and Human Studies Representative, Riaz Clark, reading a letter aloud. The letter states that it was written “on behalf of many students at Champlain College.” Clark’s letter spoke to the quality of the college’s food, noting several instances where students found glass or hair in their desserts. It also cited instances where the staff mislabeled food—a major problem for students with dietary restrictions and allergies.
These issues are on top of a larger sanitary issue that students have with the dining hall staff. “[W]e feel like there is a lack of sanitary oversight in the dining hall, on multiple occasions students have seen dining hall staff in the restrooms and not make the proper sanitary choices such as washing their hands or wearing hair nets or hats,” Riaz said.
Caitlin Allen, a student, echoes Clark’s comments. As a former Sodexo student employee, she stated that the standard of hygiene for its workers was appalling—going as far as to say that they had lower standards than fast food establishments she has previously worked at.
Beyond the sanitary concerns, a couple of students including a Student Ambassador, felt as though Sodexo and the college attempt to make the dining hall appear better than it actually is on specific occasions. During tours of Champlain, the Student Ambassadors tell prospective families about the accommodations that the dining hall makes for students. One Student Ambassador said she struggles during these parts of the tour because she feels that she’s misleading students and families.
During Family Weekend events at Champlain, one student noticed that the quality of meals rose greatly. On top of that, she found that the dining options also increased during these events. Specifically, there was chicken at the salad bar–an option that typically isn’t there during any other day of the year.
Lack of dining options for everyone was a recurring issue for students at the forum, but especially for students with special dietary restrictions. Many believe the vegan and vegetarian options are sparse. There’s only one vegan and one vegetarian option in the dining hall, which makes it difficult because the salad bar “gets old.” This gets worse during late night dining when Veg, the vegan and vegetarian station, is closed.
Sodexo employees, while listening and actively hearing students out, made it clear that dining options are chosen on the corporate level. The options come from a 170-page menu, from which local colleges get to choose what they want. While there is an ability to change some menu items depending on region, personalization is limited.
The dining hall staff stresses to students that the best way to make any changes with Champlain College dining is to talk with chefs and staff about issues that come up. Many of the chefs will go beyond the status quo in order to help the Champlain College community.
Jessica Schultz, one of the students who attended the event, still has her concerns but thought Sodexo took the right steps forward.
“I felt like the IDX staff were actually listening to our concerns because they were taking notes, and I really hope they address the food quality and the real concerns we brought up. We pay a lot of money for meal plans and the food quality should make that amount feel worthwhile,” Schultz says.