The Dining Hall and its Staff Deserve Better

Keegan Smith ’23

I love food. I love to eat what is made for me, but I also enjoy preparing filling meals to fuel my training (without breaking the budget!) and making a tasty dish for my friends. Though I enjoy preparing meals on occasion, I appreciate that I am able to go to campus dining for the majority of my dining needs. 

I have observed campus dining through the eyes of a hungry first-year, eager to eat their way through the offerings at Lowry and Mom’s; a COVID-weary sophomore and junior, dashing in and out to grab a meal; and an emboldened senior, hoping to bring about positive change when possible for the Wooster community.

Wooster’s community is special – we’re students, faculty and staff all working together as “independent thinkers who are well prepared to seek solutions.” We develop relationships with our classmates, our professors and with those working on campus to create this incredible learning and living environment. Our environment is supported, in part, by hard-working professionals, dedicating their time and energy to fueling our bodies and minds alike. 

The professionals preparing and serving our meals, however, have not received the necessary support from our school’s administration, as evidenced by the outsourcing of campus dining despite the proposal receiving significant and valid resistance. A Google search of our school’s website returns 118 results as of this writing, including letters of opposition to outsourcing, unanswered questions related to potential impact and the unwelcome realization our college’s administration was undeterred.

Equally undeterred are the students, as we have a voice and are untethered from fears of job loss or retaliation from speaking out. We students have heard from our campus dining workers, and we students are appalled by what the workers now call reality: poor pay, reduced benefits, unreasonable expectations and demands. This reality grinds on one’s soul, and is evident on one’s face. Our campus dining workers may try to feign pep, but we clearly see the changes in their demeanor, voices, posture. Unwelcome changes, honest changes, changes we don’t want hidden behind a veneer of false cheer, changes we want reversed through real solutions that show the school values our campus dining workers.

As part of the outsourcing, the students were also impacted. We lost bantering with our campus dining workers, and we lost crucial late-night dining options. Camp Woo’s population is fully composed of full-time students with academic, social and athletic demands of our time and energy. We are engaged in clubs that will tend our interests and enrich our learning. We tutor classmates and TA classes. We practice hard. We study late into the night. We need to eat to fuel our minds!

Our schedules start early and wrap up late – and we need fuel at all hours to meet our often weird schedules’ demands. It’s not uncommon to find our club hockey team on skates until 11:30 at night. It’s par for the course to watch our varsity teams practice on the Papp until midnight. With nearly one-third the student body involved in formal athletics, we have a hungry population tucking into second dinner when others are tucking into bed. 

Rather, we HAD a hungry population tucking into food. With the current dining contract in effect, and closures limiting options, students are left with two choices: MacLeod’s Convenience Store or to fend for themselves. The C-Store only accepts Flex dollars for payment for its very expensive offerings. At 10 to 12 dollars a meal, our meal plan’s Flex dollars are quickly drained, again resulting in students needing to fend for themselves when we do not have the facilities or supplies to readily and sufficiently feed ourselves nightly. 

Flex dollars are a part of our meal plan designs, and not one of our meal plan designs are sufficient to fuel an athlete’s needed meals each day, all semester long. Our academic calendar runs 99 days and 396 meals, not including break closures. Our most generous meal plan offers an almost three-meal a day plan, but falls quite short for those with greater nutritional demands.

We need affordable, nutritious, filling, late-night meals prepared by workers who are treated fairly. Our campus dining workers need to be insourced and appropriately compensated. We’re tired of seeing members of our community demoralized and mistreated. We’re tired of going to bed hungry.

One thought on “The Dining Hall and its Staff Deserve Better

  1. Pingback: The Wooster Voice

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