By Emily Cole
With five food locations across both campuses, Simmons Dining Services is in full motion. Bistro 300, the newest location, serves 1,500 rice and salad bowls per week and recently made improvements based on student feedback. Many students, however, still had questions about the changes to the hours of operation at The Fens Café, allergen precautions, the meal plan system, and more.
On Oct. 25, four members of the Simmons Dining Services spoke at the Student Government Association forum meeting: Richard Cody, Food Service Director; Christie Andre, Retail Manager; Ian Ross, Executive Campus Chef on Academic Campus; and Aaron Fish, the Campus Chef on Resident Campus.
One theme of students’ questions was a concern about allergens and cross contamination. The subject was off to a rough start when the four brought platters of cookies to the forum and were not able to answer whether the cookies were soy-free.
The four staffers detailed what precautions are currently taken to prevent cross contamination and help those with allergies such as frequent changing of gloves and using disposable utensils to handle certain ingredients such as shellfish. They assured that if cross contamination occurs, those ingredients are disposed of. They also stated that Academic campus is not gluten free but rather “gluten friendly,” because they are not able to accommodate being gluten free with the facilities available.
When it comes to clear labeling, Ross admitted there is room for improvement.
“We try to make sure that each item is identified correctly for vegan, gluten free… As far as the grab and go items, they’re not really labeled to the best that they should be. As far as the Fens goes we have a little work to do on that,” he said. He later specified that although the grab and go items are not labeled for dietary restrictions and allergens, all ingredients are listed specifically on the back of the package.
Cody said that he is currently talking with Tim Rogers, Director of Disability Services, to create a better system for those with allergies and dietary restrictions. He knows that although these steps are time consuming, they are necessary.
“I think we need a dietician on campus. That would be my goal to push for that for next year,” he added.
Another focus of the discussion came around student meal plans. Senior Colette Kroop brought up the issue that with the current meal plan options, it is not possible to eat three meals a day and that in fact a student would need 293 meals per semester to eat three meals per weekday and two per weekend day, factoring in Thanksgiving break. When Andre and Cody responded by saying that students could purchase more dining points, Kroop pointed out that that means only students who can afford it can eat three meals a day. One student suggested the idea of a communal meal swipe food bank so that students with excess meal swipes towards the end of the semester could donate them to students who may have run out. Cody and Corey Zohlman, Director of Student Leadership and Activities, agreed this was a good idea and that it would be discussed during an upcoming meeting between Dining Services and Student Life.
Once again, Cody assured that feedback is always taken into consideration and always welcome. The Dining Services office is in the Main College Building at E-004 and Cody assures, “My door is always open so don’t hesitate.”