An anonymous Twitter user created an account called “SVC Food Fails” earlier this month, posting pictures of what it calls “disappointing food” from Saint Vincent dining services. Students and dining service representatives responded to the account and their perspective on the food at Saint Vincent.
The account has tweeted 10 times and has 88 followers.
Mitch Farrell, a senior accounting and music double major, said that the “SVC Food Fails” account makes a valid statement.
“Is it a realistic representation of what the food is like? No. But I don’t know that that’s the point, I think the point is that some things are unacceptable,” Farrell said.
Farrell is executive board treasurer of the Student Government Association on campus, and in SGA meetings, he explained that he has heard of criticisms on the quality of the food from dining services. “What that Twitter page is doing is no different than what we are doing every week at SGA meetings, where people bring up what happened that week in the [cafeteria],” Farrell said.
Farrell said that he himself has had negative experiences with the food at Saint Vincent.
“Me personally, I’ve never found hair in my food at a restaurant; I’ve found it here,” Farrell said. “I’ve never had a hamburger that was almost raw meat, and I’ve certainly never had food brought to me that I look at it and say: ‘I don’t know what this is,’ [but I have done so here.]” continued on page 11
Michaela Lavy, a senior biology major, said that some complaints against the quality of dining service food are reasonable.
“I hear about under-cooked chicken a lot, especially from the Shack,” Lavy said. “I hear about [complaints] about once or twice a week, depending on what was cooked in the [cafeteria].”
However, Lavy cited that students’ unwillingness to eat due to food they find unappetizing is a bigger issue than the quality of the food itself. Lavy stated that she has heard students say that they are still hungry when leaving the cafeteria.
“People don’t want to eat white bean chili for dinner,” she said. “That’s really hard for a college student trying to go to class, and then especially for athletes and people who work out and are very active on campus - that’s hard because you get hungry faster than you probably should.”
Reggie Esmi, senior general manager of dining services, said that their plans for the food they serve are informed by three different sources of student feedback.
These include the comment cards which are kept by the exit of the cafeteria, a biannual survey dining services conducts in the cafeteria and a yearly survey from SGA. He also said that a committee was created last semester made up of students to aid communication between students and dining services.
“So, when the summertime comes, we look at all of this information that we have, and that’s how we plan our changes and whatever we need to do,” Esmi said
According to Esmi, he, Mike Logesky, the director of dining, and dining service chefs hold meetings throughout the summer to determine their course of action for the upcoming school year.
Logesky said that student preferences vary as the school’s student population changes each year, so they try to adjust the menu throughout the year accordingly.
“We’re trying to appease everybody,” Logesky said. “We’re actively looking into a couple vendors or scenarios that might offer us more variety down the line, or if we can’t go that route, how do we get the flavors that [students] are asking for more consistently. So, there is behind the scenes planning, but sometimes the leg work takes a couple weeks.”
In terms of hygiene, Logesky said, those on dining services watch food safety videos yearly, and staff discuss in meetings how well workers are following sanitation procedure.
In addition, Logesky said that hair net, glove use, hand washing and sneeze guard policies are in place. If a student finds a contaminant in food, Logesky said he hopes the issue is brought up to him or a supervisor so reactive measures can be taken.
“We’re going to take a look at where it was found, how it was found,” he said, “Then, go back through our stuff to make sure that number one, anybody in contact with that food on our end were following all the protocols put in place. And if they were not, there is a reprimanding procedure if we feel that they weren’t, and then also a retraining on that.”
Esmi added that dining services gets audited twice a year by two groups, with each audit lasting from four to nine hours. Also, he said that all managers and even some supervisors are “ServSafe” certified, as opposed to only the chef and general manager being certified, which Esmi said is typical in most food establishments. “ServSafe” is a food safety training program.
As far as the “SVC Food Fails” Twitter page is concerned, Esmi said that social media “cannot be controlled,” and he would rather see positive feedback there.
Farrell and Lavy both described the Twitter page as harmless so far.
“So far it seems playful,” Farrell said. “You certainly have to remain respectful of the people that are cooking the food and are working hard to feed all the students. […] If it got to the point where they were making rude remarks about the people or using derogatory remarks about the food then it would be a problem.”
“It’s bringing to light what everybody sees,” Lavy said. “So students know that you’re not the only person. […] I don’t think it was meant to paint Saint Vincent in a bad light. I think it was a point where some students were really just frustrated and really wanted someone else to see it.”
Both students said that they hope dining services would see the Twitter page and better understand students’ experiences with the food they provide.
However, Esmi and Logesky said that they do not find the account helpful, and said they prefer criticisms being made directly so that they can address them immediately.
In reference to pictures of salad items from Sept. 13 and 14 on the Twitter account, Logeski explained that buying vegetables in bulk leads to some roots or unfavorable parts of vegetables being included in the mix.
Esmi responded to a pizza pictured on Sept. 14 and bacon pictured on Sept. 18.
“If you show me one pepperoni pizza that does not have grease, I’ll make sure our pepperoni pizza doesn’t have grease,” Esmi said. “But you’re talking about the cheese, you’re talking about pepperoni itself. The sauce is made here, the dough is made here, everything is as fresh as you can get it. The cheese that is there is real cheese. And you will see that in some of our standards: nothing that we buy is imitation. Like the picture for the bacon: that’s bacon bits made here. It’s going to look like that because it is fresh and is made here.”
Photo 1: SVC Food Fails Twitter
Photo 2: Matt Wojtechko
Photo 3: John Wojtechko