The dining hall dilemma
Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, April 6, 2022
It all seemed to start with the trays being repurposed to carry food waste on the conveyer belt. The steady, rapid decline of the dining halls. It’s almost symbolic, isn’t it? We didn’t just lose trays, an item that allowed for more food options to be brought to the table, we lost the options entirely. As a junior, I have eaten six semesters worth of food from the dining halls. I could understand the lack of options and the dip in quality due to the COVID era last year. But this year is simply unacceptable. I refuse to continue to allow for rubber chicken and reheated frozen beef strips to dominate the Domer diet. I want to call attention to how things have changed and suggest solutions the University should take to improve the quality of food in the dining halls.
My complaints about the dining hall really began when I noticed the lack of beef early last semester. We have truly lacked any substantial beef option every week. It seems most meals centered around beef simply consist of reheated frozen beef strips covered in some sauce and rebranded weekly. Think beef bulgogi, “Brazilian steak,” or even the beef in the quesadillas. Without fail, another beef meal featuring the leftover beef strips pops up a night or two later. Noticing this opened my eyes to the other shortcomings of the dining halls. The apples are washed intermittently. The peanut butter and Nutella change consistency nearly daily; it could be so soupy you need a ladle to serve or be prepackaged. Did you know the soy sauce does not contain soy as an ingredient? Why do we run out of blue Powerade and Hi-C biweekly? Remember when we had a different type of French fry every day? I could truly go on for pages, but you get the gist.
Here’s the thing. If we were not relegated to the dining halls, these grievances would be invalid. But we don’t have any other option. To claim we can eat at an on-campus restaurant is not tenable when we have a limited budget to spend as part of our meal plan. Keep in mind, we pay over $3,400 for that meal plan — that’s what an off-campus senior would pay for a block-230 plan without flex points. I really can’t say one meal at South Dining Hall is worth $14.78, yet I’m forced to spend the cost of my state’s in-state tuition price to eat there for a semester. At the very least, it’s enough to pay for things like all-beef burgers, not beef-mushroom substitutes.
It is no secret Notre Dame is short-staffed across campus, but it is most evident in dining services. The stir fry stations have sat dormant for months. Entire stations remain unmanned. Ice cream machines are broken more often than McDonald’s due to a lack of maintenance workers. We need more workers, plain and simple, and we can start by offering a more competitive wage to our employees. Notre Dame Campus Dining currently has an opening for a full-time Demi Sous Chef, paying $19-21.50 an hour. According to Salary.com, that’s within the bottom 25th percentile. We can certainly do better, especially considering that Notre Dame netted nearly seven billion dollars with the endowment last year alone.
I’m not sure who it is that can make the changes we so desperately need and deserve, but if you happen to be reading this, know the student body is unhappy. Please make changes to encourage fresher food, more options and better pay for employees.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.