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A Cautionary Tale from a College Disaster: Fight For Your Right to Feast


saladbarNearly every first year student worries about putting on the dreaded “freshman fifteen” upon entering college, which makes the dining hall and food options offered by a university a major focal point of conversation among its student body. While most colleges across the nation have a variety of options in their dining hall and the students are satisfied, a lot of colleges simply suck in the food programs they provide for their students. However, while those programs may not be ideal for the student body, administrations often work with students to get insight into creating better menus, offering more variety, and improving overall healthiness of the food.

My university is not one of those schools that eagerly works to improve the situation in the dining hall, even though it is overwhelmingly a huge issue on campus.

From day one, I have heard nothing but complaints from my peers, and even my professors – and now, two and a half years later, complaints and concerns of the dining program (created by Sodexho – a program which works with many schools across the nation) still circulate on a day-to-day basis.

As a campus, Hollins students are indisputably guilty for interminable complaining about the issues with Sodexho as a program and the administration taking responsibility (or lack thereof) for student concerns over food issues, but I don’t blame anyone for their incessant pressure on trying to improve the situation. Hollins doesn’t offer a varying meal plan; its unlimited access to the dining hall from breakfast until the cafeteria closes at 7pm binds students to the meal-plan, making getting off the meal plan nearly impossible.

I have seen a huge variety of issues that students have brought up to the public forum: not enough variety in the menu options, foods not being cooked at right temperatures or having a decent amount of heat to them (especially the meat), alike foods such as quesadillas and burgers are in rotation every day (French fries are offered every day, too), no options for vegans except tofu in the salad bar (and very futile options available for vegetarians – especially at a school where vegetarians are a majority), unhealthy options clutter the stations (one night, three types of potatoes were offered: waffle fries, curly fries, and tatter tots), the ingredients on the labels are not present (what about students who have food allergies?), and most of the time, labels are not even put out near a station.

These are just the minimal grumbles that have been brought up over and over again within the student body, and no one from the administration or the manager of the dining hall ever really gives a solid answer on how to fix the program. The few times promises are made to make a change in the dining hall, nothing ever happens.

Many students have tried to jump start programs. For example, last year some students started a petition to get cage-free eggs instead of regular eggs on campus. I believe nearly 500 students signed it (in a school of 800), but the petition was ignored. How can 500 students be ignored? Students tried starting a food committee, but that didn’t last for long – no one seemed interested in taking on the responsibility, especially when everyone knows that the administration has no interest in really making changes. The Health Department has even been called before, and that wasn’t enough to jump start any movement. Honestly, I think students feel like nothing can be done – especially since everyone on campus knows that a contract was signed between Hollins and Sodexho a few years ago, making the partnership inevitable. The contract seems more important than the well-being of the students, at this point.

Although many point to Sodexho, I do not think all the blame can fall on the national food company. Many other universities use Sodexho, but they have no qualms about what their students are being served and neither do the students. The plan Hollins picked is not pleasing students, at all, and that needs to be addressed by those who have the power. Hello administration, are you listening yet? It seems like the only people who could do something are the administration, but I don’t think they care. After all, they don’t have to eat there night after night.

While the rest of the students have numerous complaints, I specifically have two:

My friend’s mothers who went here talk with smiles on their face about the food. They absolutely loved it, and it seems like it was such a coveted memory of long meals with their friends eating some good meals. Now, students rush to eat what they can (if anything, especially on weekends) and then compare food poisoning stories with their friends. In honor of our amazing alumni that Hollins toots so often, why not fix something that was so popular? Also, I think it is ironic how the food improves drastically whenever alumni, Board of Trustee members, or prospective students visit campus. Fondue and prime rib was served during Parents Weekend once, and I have to say, I haven’t seen either one since.

Whether or not it seems like it, food is a huge part of college life. If you live on campus, you eat there like it’s your home. No one should fret about whether or not they will have adequate options for dinner or if they will get sick from the Ranch Dressing that tasted more like spoiled milk.  While my fellow peers have said enough is enough over and over again, I think change will not come until the administration does something. And based on the way the administration has handled things in the past, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Now, tell me about your dining hall. Do you love it or hate it? Does it stand out from other schools across the nation? Do you think the administration at your university is conscious of the food that its students consume on a daily basis? I want to know what (kind of crap) you are getting fed by both the dining hall and the administration.

I'm a future Real Housewife of Atlanta.