by Nevaeh Rush, Vice President
The changes in the dining hall on campus due to COVID-19 have left the majority of students unsatisfied with their meals and wanting more for the price of their meal plans.
With new regulations on campus, the cuisine at UMF has vastly changed. South Dining Hall has been changed to a buffet style where students take their food and leave. “You walk in and tap your dining card,” said Sophomore Julia Partridge, “It only goes one way, and you have to grab food items through the line.”
There are 50 people allowed to be in the South Dining Hall at one time, leaving students feeling rushed as they go through the line. Sophomore, Emily Thompson said, “If you forgot to grab something and you passed it, forget about it.”
New signage posted outside the new entrance of the dining hall, changed due to COVID-19.
Photo courtesy of Sam Shirley.
Having unlimited swipes comes in handy for those students who feel that the lack of options is a greater problem this semester than it has been previously. “I find it harder to eat healthy,” said Partridge. “There are less healthy options and the ones they do have often do not taste good,”.
Senior, Thomas Watson struggles in particular with the options in the dining hall this semester. Watson struggles with Celiac disease, a hypersensitivity to gluten. This limits many of the options for him to eat in the dining hall. “I am basically limited to the gluten free sandwiches or the simple servings,” Watson said. “And the simple servings happen to be closed on the weekends.” All of the prepackaged food is already out for the day, therefore often the gluten free sandwich options he is limited to are gone by the end of the day.
“I do believe that I have the option to call ahead an hour or more and ask them to prepare me something gluten free.” He said. Although that is a better alternative some days, it is not always convenient in the uncertainty of a college student’s busy schedule.
Watson as well as Thompson, both having the highest meal plan (meal plan A), voiced their concerns about spending their own money on top of the meal plan cost due to being simply unsatisfied with the food. “I am a picky eater,” Thompson said. “There often are not many options I will eat.”
“I wouldn’t call it a need to technically, there are the things in the dining hall that are needed for survival,” Watson said. “But I am finding myself spending more on outside food than I normally had.”
Yet there are some benefits with the new system, “I have been sick less from cross contamination of gluten products,” Watson said, “because everything is now packaged separately.” Many students are also enjoying the new eating areas on campus, such as the Mantor Green. “It is nice to sit outside and eat when it is nice out,” Watson said.
“It is a necessary evil,” he said. “The dining hall is doing what they have to to be open.”
By Grace McIntosh Contributing Writer
Walk into South Dining Hall and you’ll witness busy Sodexo employees hustling around in their bright blue uniforms as they work to provide students their meals. What’s on today’s menu? For some people, the importance of this question is all too real with their food allergies or dietary restrictions.
The Simple Serving station, an allergen free station, is useful for people with dietary restrictions. (Photo by Keely McConomy)
Doug Winslow, executive chef of South Dining Hall, clarified why these concerns won’t be a problem at UMF. “We have identifiers at every station at every meal that show whether it is gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, or if it contains allergens,” said Doug. “If there is ever a question they can ask the person working the station or come find any of the managers. The doors to the kitchen are 100% open.”
First year student Toni Facciponti, who has been a vegetarian for two years, was afraid she wasn’t going to have healthy options to fit her needs. “I was worried I would only have salad or cheese pizza to eat,” Facciponti said.
However, when Facciponti arrived at UMF, it was clear there would be a variety of options. “The stir fry bar is a nice area for lunch, they’ll usually have rice or noodles and will cook up veggies of your choice and sometimes tofu, ” Facciponti said. The aroma of curried vegetables can often be smelled as students enter for a meal.
At the far end of South Dining Hall, next to the kitchen, lies an allergy-friendly food station that has become a safe haven for students. The Simple Serve station is free of the eight major allergens – peanuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soybeans, fish, shellfish, and treenuts – making it the perfect place to grab a bite worry-free of cross contamination.
First year student Brandon Marx, a pescetarian, says the Simple Serve station is his go-to for dinner. “UMF has a good selection of vegetarian choices and there will always be at least one available each meal,” Marx reassured.
Of course, the dining hall is not a perfect system and there is always room for improvement. One student found their experience with Sodexo quite difficult. Junior Alexis Libby has a gluten allergy that caused dining during her sophomore year to be challenging.
“Choices were always so limited. I lived on salad,” Libby said. “Frankly, the lack of options was unacceptable and I think a greater variety of gluten-free options should be available.” Libby acknowledged that the Simple Servings option was usually her safest bet. Her advice is to advocate for yourself if you don’t feel your needs are being met.
Regardless of people’s experience with the food, Sodexo workers have a reputation around campus for being some of the warmest and kindest people.
“The workers have been extremely helpful and pleasant during my interactions with them,” Marx said. Facciponti also agrees with the staff-friendliness saying that they make an effort to know your name as well.
Whether today’s menu looks good or not, the dining hall aims to make your experience pleasant from start to finish for each meal.
By Caitlin Raye Contributing Writer
In a vacant South Dining Hall, surrounded by the loud noise of the radio coming from the overhead speaker, sat a humble and beloved member of the Sodexo employee staff.
Eloise Wallace, a Sodexo employee, can almost always be found in the South Dining Hall twice a day, greeting students and swiping dining hall cards with a smile. Before working in the dining hall, Wallace taught at the childcare center on campus for 25 years, has been a student herself, and even worked on-campus while she was a high school student. Wallace has worked at UMF for a total of 34 years.
Eloise Wallace is a beloved member of both Sodexo and the UMF community.
Marshall Maxsimic, a junior, described Wallace in an email interview as someone who “is just always smiling and always interacting with students.” Maxsimic continued by saying, “Students know that if they are having a bad day, they will see Eloise later and she will ask them how things are going or wish them a happy Friday. There is no better feeling than entering the weekend with a ‘happy Friday’ from Eloise.”
When asked what qualities make her a good employee, Wallace was unable to say but expressed that, “I try to make sure I greet each [student] that comes through and that I do it with a smile. I try to make sure that everybody feels that they are an important part of this and want to come back again.”
Wallace continued by saying, “IIt doesn’t matter who anyone is or what their dress is, what their skin color is, what their orientation is. People are people!”
Eila McCulloch, a freshman, said in an email interview, “I have a very difficult name to pronounce. It is always mispronounced or butchered in some way, shape or form.” McCulloch said that “[Wallace] would stop me and make sure she was saying my name correctly whenever I came into the dining hall for lunch, until she was sure she had it right. It absolutely warmed my heart to know that someone would care that much about the students they see every day, especially when I am just one person of thousands on this campus.”
Maxsimic said, “[Wallace] always welcomes me with a smile to the dining hall. She also knows pretty much everyone’s name and uses their name when she greets them. I think that is pretty telling about her friendliness.”
In her years working at the dining hall, Wallace has won the “Dining Hall Staff Award,” voted by students each year. Wallace has received this award around 8 to 11 times. The award has recently been renamed the Eloise Wallace Dining Center Award.
Wallace expressed her gratitude by saying, “I’m very honored and I appreciate it. I think being recognized by you students is so much more than somebody walking out of the office and somebody said something like good job.”
While Wallace is thankful for the support and praise from the students, she explained that she no long wishes to be picked to receive the award because it is now named after her and feels she should not being given her own award. Wallace expressed that is it time for someone else to receive the recognition they deserve.
When talking about the award, Wallace felt that the whole dining hall staff deserved the award. “We are a team and it’s a team effort. And when somebody is out, we notice,” Wallace said. “This team, this group, nobody has a grudge for anyone. You just fill in. They do it for me so why not do it from them. I think that goes all the way around.”
Maxsimic and McCulloch both agree that Wallace is likable. Maxsimic said, “She is so likeable because she is very genuine in how she treats everyone. She is one hundred percent real and she honestly makes everyone feel good when they are interacting with her.” McCulloch echoed Maxsimic’s opinion by adding, “She is so likeable because she has such a warm personality and always radiates positivity.”
Outside of working, Wallace enjoys spending time at sporting events on campus, her favorite being basketball. Wallace enjoys the opportunity to go and watch, as well as speak with the players.
Outside of UMF, Wallace enjoys sewing and making quilts. She also likes to crochet and make afghan blankets. Along with sewing and crocheting, Wallace enjoys getting outside, going for walks and meeting up with friends. “I just enjoy living. I enjoy life and people,” Wallace said.
By Emilee Eustis Contributing Writer
The dining hall at UMF has given one student months of frustration after Sodexo has been unable to accomodate the student’s diet. Adlin Chaparin is a first-year student at UMF “on a strict vegan diet” due to a severe lactose intolerance. Because of Chaparin’s strict diet, options in the dining hall are very limited.
“Since I am a first-year student here at UMF and living in residence halls, I am required to have the all access meal plan, which is something I cannot be paying for while also paying for my weekly groceries,” Chaparin said. This poses a big problem because Chaparin has to pay for a meal plan she isn’t using as well as pay for groceries that she needs due to her inability to eat in the dining hall.
Chaparin has tried many times to go to the dining hall and make the best of her situation. “One day I went into lunch between my classes, and the options for me were very limited. I asked for a veggie burger, which I waited twenty minutes to receive, and when I finally got it, it was burnt completely and inedible.” She said many weeks she would go to the dining hall, and end up eating nothing.
Chaparin also said the issues with the dining hall are affecting her health, and could be affecting the health of many other students who are faced with the same problems. “I lost a lot of weight which wasn’t healthy, and I overall didn’t feel good. On days when I was able to find something in the dining hall to eat, I would always feel very sick afterwards, and I’ve heard the same remarks from other UMF students.”
Chaparin is also a collegiate athlete and burns “approximately 2,500 calories a day” but was only taking in about 1,250 calories, making it difficult to perform well in sports or in the classroom.
To make changes in the dining hall, Chaparin said that involvement from students on the campus could be beneficial, since complaints from a few students do not seem to wield results. Chaparin had “heard a lot of students complaining” about the food in the dining hall and knows a few other vegans/vegetarians on campus who are fighting a similar battle.
Moving forward, Chaparin wishes to see the dining hall have a wider variety of choices, and for members of the UMF community to understand that students are paying a lot money for a service, that does not always accommodate to the needs of everyone. Sodexo has not made a comment at this time.