Samuel Boudreau, Editor in Chief
On Nov. 30, Marjorie Shamp, Director of Campus Dining & Conference Services, and Jason Stevenson, Executive Chef of Creative Dining Services (CDS), held a Campus Dining Listening Session for students to share their concerns regarding food and dining at the College. Four students attended the meeting, one of whom was Tyler Rak, Scot Council Dining Committee’s Liaison.
The first topic was on dining’s ongoing staffing shortage. Since Sept. 29, the College has hired 20 staff members for campus dining, bumping the total number of dining staff members to 109. “In the past eight weeks, we really put a push, through Indeed and other resources, to get candidates in the door,” said Shamp, who said that the staff increase has led to an increase in dining’s ability to operate the dishroom and late-night dining options. Campus Dining also hired a hiring administrator to help take the burden off front-of-the-house supervisors. Despite these staff increases, Shamp said that student positions continue to remain drastically low relative to previous years. “At one time we had 80 student employees, and now we’re lucky to have 35,” said Shamp, “so we want to see those numbers continue to increase.”
Over winter break, Shamp said that campus dining will “completely overhaul” the College’s late-night ordering system at Mom’s so students can use meal swipes for late-night meals. “We are going to completely change over the point of sales system to a new system and they have guaranteed me that the kiosk for late-night ordering will take a meal swipe,” said Shamp, “so, second semester, you can use a meal swipe to pay for your late night meals after 8:00 p.m. at Mom’s.”
While the College will overhaul the late-night ordering system, high inflation rates have forced the College to revise student meal plans. “We just don’t have the buying power for our items like Walmart, big chains or the discount Drug Mart,” said Shamp, “because we’re buying things by the case, so we don’t get price breaks.” The College’s current meal plans, which were created 12 years ago, have also failed to address students’ current eating habits. “They were devised twelve years ago,” said Shamp, “campus dining has evolved since then and student eating habits have evolved since then.”
Jim Prince, Vice President for Finance and Business/Treasurer, said that he has met with CDS consultants to review and possibly change the meal plans. “I have spoken to Creative Dining, and I will also be meeting next week with our Dining Consultant (Todd Tekiele) about beginning a process for determining what meal plan options we should introduce next year,” said Prince. Next semester, Prince said that the College will form a “meal plan task force,” made up of students and staff members, next semester, to revise the plans.
Along with the dish room’s operation, the College will reinstate green reusable containers, items from a bygone era before COVID-19, when students kept these containers to take food home for breakfast/lunch/dinner. Shamp said that every student will be provided with a reusable container, which “puts the onus on the student population to remember to bring that box back.” Students will have the option to replace a box with a meal swipe.
Grace Krage ’24 asked Stevenson and Shamp if the College will look to improve the College’s online menu to match the day’s actual menu. “The problem is that there are a lot of things to the system we have,” said Stevenson, “it is just trying to get all the information into the system.”
Next semester, Stevenson said that dining will attempt to provide special dishes everyday for 5 weeks for the grill section. Stevenson also said that Kitchen Table will return next semester and that dining will add more international options to the global station. Additionally, Stevenson said that he will add vegan breakfast everyday next semester.
Stevenson and Shamp also addressed concerns regarding the cooking of chicken at the College, as parents on the College’s Facebook page brought this issue up. “In the bone marrow,” said Shamp, “there is a pigment and when you cook bone-in-chicken, there is a pigment.”
When the College shifted towards CDS, the College adopted a slight change in the College’s health insurance policy for staff members. Staff medical rates are based on 3% of a staff member’s wage. Instead of collecting staff payroll deductions for all 12 months in a year, CDS issues payroll deductions from September to May, as “There are no deductions during the summer months when some employees are laid off,” according to documents obtained by the Voice. A change in these rates, along with an “across the board annual rate increase,” in September, appeared to contradict earlier statements made by CDS that “Once staff move over to Creative Dining insurance program (by 1/1/23) premiums [health insurance deductibles] will remain at the level being paid by College of Wooster employees going forward, as long as employees continue to work for Creative Dining of The College of Wooster campus.” According to sources, the increase created concerns for staff members. Shamp addressed these concerns to the Voice, as she said, “CDS does their health insurance a little differently and we’re paying the same health insurance, we’re paying the same exact health insurance premium,” citing a difference in the distribution of deductibles over the course of a year.