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Forum addresses food service issues

Ashley Charnley | Thursday, November 20, 2008

Barry Bowles, general manager of Sodexo at Saint Mary’s College, invited students to come ask questions and make comments about food services at an open forum held Thursday night in the Student Center.

“First things first, we are a contract food service company. We don’t work for the College, per say … We work for a company called Sodexho,” Bowles said.

Sodexho is the second largest food service in the United States and Saint Mary’s is a client of the company, he said.

One of the largest issues addressed was the lack of communication between students and the dining hall. The company is working on ways of improving this problem, Bowles said.

“One thing I want to point out, food services are probably one of the worst ones on campus on getting the word out,” Bowles said.

In order to improve the communication problem, Karen Johnson, Vice President of Student Affairs, suggested adding updates on the student home page. This would allow students to know when popular menu items will be served in the dining hall daily.

Executive chef, Ken Acsta, said it was hard to determine what variety of food to offer.

“We don’t really know what everybody wants, but we get the varieties out there so that everybody can put together what they want,” Acsta said.

Although the dining hall cannot accommodate everyone, Bowles said the opportunity for variety is there if students get creative with it.

“If you ask, they should be able to get it for you,” Bowles said.

The issue of communication again was addressed because students do not know all the services available to them in the dining hall. For instance, at the grill, hamburgers are served, but students can ask for grilled fish or chicken as well, Bowles said.

Bowles also addressed the boycott that was held against the dining hall in mid-October of this year. Two students anonymously slid fliers under the doors of student rooms calling for students to not eat in the dining hall.

“What hurt me more than anything is that I did not know,” Bowles said.

He stressed his open-door policy for student concerns and issues and that comment cards are available to students.

“Feedback is feedback,” Bowles said. “It can only make things better.”

Bowles said he is hoping to hold another forum at the beginning of the spring semester that will allow him to get more input on student needs in the dining hall. With only ten students in attendance at this forum, Bowles would like to see increased interest as the year progresses.