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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Committees host dining services reform forum

Published: November 14, 2008
Section: News

Heller student James Miller ’10 (left) and Paraska Tolan ’11 (right) study with a snack at Einstein’s in the Shapiro Campus Center.

Heller student James Miller ’10 (left) and Paraska Tolan ’11 (right) study with a snack at Einstein’s in the Shapiro Campus Center.

PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot

Several weeks after its official creation, the Brandeis Coalition for Food Service Reform hosted an open forum Monday night to address student concerns about Brandeis’ Dining Services.

The forum was co-sponsored by the Student Union’s Dining Services Committee and moderated by Union Director of Communications Jamie Ansorge ’09.

Members of both the Coalition and the Dining Services Committee were present to address concerns regarding Brandeis’ Dining Services the nearly 50 students present expressed.

The forum addressed four main issues: availability of food on campus, the sustainability of food, meal plan pricing, and hours of operation of campus dining locations.

Various issues students raised at the forum included the availability of vegetarian options on the kosher side of Sherman, the separation and handling of food in Usdan and Quiznos and health concerns regarding temperature of food served in dining halls.

Students also expressed interest in increasing sustainable food options and dairy options in Sherman and improving the hours of operation in dining halls to better meet students’ needs.

Many students have also recently expressed concerns over a lack of outlets to provide feedback to Dining Services, Dining Service Committee Jenna Brofsky ’10 explained. As a result, the Committee talked to managers at the P.O.D. Market and have placed a suggestions box inside.

Coalition Steering Committee Chair Danielle Hollenbeck-Pringle ’10 said the Coalition, a onetime initiative, wants to work with the administration to “make our Dining Services the most sustainable both environmentally and socially possible so that not only do we have better quality food that meets the needs of students, but [also have a Dining Services] that we are proud so that it draws prospective students in and it makes students want to eat on campus.”

In a letter to the editor in the Nov. 7 issue of The Hoot, Hollenbeck-Pringle wrote that the Coalition and the Dining Services Committee differ in their ultimate goals: “The Coalition wishes to reform Dining Services’ general policies (such as purchasing guidelines) while the Dining Services Committee will continually address student requests on the everyday function of Dining Services (such as hours of operation).”

So far, the Coalition has been misrepresented as working against Dining Services, Hollenbeck-Pringle said.

Rather than ignoring improvements Dining Services has made in recent years, though, Hollenbeck-Pringle said the Coalition strongly recognizes them, adding “it’s only with [this recognition] that we know we can create further change.”

Though they hosted the forum together, Brofsky explained that the Dining Services Committee and the Coalition are still “two very distinct entities” and as such they don’t necessarily agree on all issues the Coalition is hoping to address.

Hosting the forum was a way to get this message out, she said.

Because of the differences between the two groups, separating which issues the coalition and the committee would each address continues to be an important issue, Ansorge said, so as to make sure that “people aren’t stepping on each other’s toes and that we’re allocating resources properly.”

For instance, the Coalition has focused on labor among other concerns whereas food availability is a focus of the Committee. However, both groups are working closely together to ensure students’ Dining Services concerns are heard and Hollenbeck-Pringle said a partnership between the newly-formed Coalition and the seasoned Dining Services Committee is mutually beneficial: “We’re both approaching different aspects of dining services reform and so in hosting [the forum] with them, all students could voice their concerns and all their concerns would go to someone who could address them.”

How Dining Service provider Aramark will respond to the Coalition’s suggestions and how the recent budget cuts might affect these requests is yet to be seen as members of the Coalition wait to meet with Director of Dining Services Mike Newmark.

In an e-mail to The Hoot, Newmark said it’s too early to say what impact, if any, recent university budget cuts will have on Dining Services. Newmark said he will be meeting with Vice President of Campus Operations Mark Collins to discuss this matter soon.