Next semester, Blackburn is considering having Ding open all day, instead of just breakfast, lunch and dinner hours.
Vice President of Administration and Finance Steve Morris said the hours will be from 7 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. Due to this change, Snackbar’s hours would also be changed. Snackbar would open at 1 p.m.
“We are responding to feedback from our state of the campus survey done in Spring 2018 about low student satisfaction with Sodexo’s current quality, variety, and nutritious value of food served,” said Morris. “We’ve also seen complaints from students who were unable to eat or work in food service during the limited meal hours during the week, as well as students running out of meal swipes mid-semester due to buying too small of a block plan for their needs.”
Blackburn is also looking into replacing Sodexo next academic year. The contract with Sodexo doesn’t end for another two years, but the college is considering buying out of that contract due to the results of the state of campus survey. There were presentations last week from Sodexo and two other competing food service providers, Fresh Ideas and the Blackburn Account. It’s possible that Sodexo will still be here next semester, but it’s certainly not a guarantee.
According to Morris, there will be bigger portion sizes per meal swipe at both Ding and Snackbar next semester. There will also be a limited number of Snackbar swipes per week (five to ten), “due to the improved hours and availability of Anackbar type offerings in Ding.”
The feedback from the presentations will be an important factor in the final proposal the administration will make to the Board. The next Board of Trustees meeting is in mid-February, and that is when the administration will be presenting their proposal. Morris said, “Both our VP for Student Life, Abbey Hardin, and our Dean of Work, Angie Morenz have been working with their student constituents to get feedback as well.” He directed any questions that students might have about food service plans or issues for this spring to Hardin or Morenz.
Department Manager of Dining and Hospitality Alexis Aguilera said that she wasn’t really consulted with the potential changes. “I know about as much as the campus knows,” she said. She knows what the proposal is and some of the basic ideas. The hours that there are no workers available, Ding would function as self-serve. “The major thing is scheduling.” Aguilera has questions and concerns with the new plan: “Of those self-serve hours, who’s gonna do dishes? Who’s gonna be cleaning up messes and making sure things are tidy? Is there gonna be a staff back there? Who’s in charge of us?”
The plan is to make any possible changes next semester. “I think it’s a good idea, but not for next fall,” Aguilera admitted. “I’d be happy to be helping them out or give them ideas, but I think for something that’s supposed to happen in four or five months, it’s a lot of work.”
Aguilera is conflicted with her feelings on the possibility of Sodexo leaving. “I’ve worked with them since I was a freshman… so I really enjoy them,” she said, but added, “I do think the campus could use a fresh face, and so maybe one of these new companies can do something that will make people change their minds about Ding, which is something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, to make Ding a better place where people actually enjoy sitting in here, and not talk about it. I think the campus deserves that.”
Another change to Ding would be the meal plans. Morris said the residential meal plan will offer 19 meals per week, which totals up to 304 meals per semester. It includes $100 in flex that could go back into helping Snackbar’s business. For commuters, there will be a 30-meal block plan.
There are a lot of changes being proposed for next semester in direct response to a student survey. Regardless of opinions on these changes or the potential effects they will have on campus, it’s solution-based thinking in an attempt to resolve some complaints about food service. By the end of the semester, the rest of the campus will know which food service company will be at Blackburn next year. By the end of next month, there might even be information on whether or not the hours, portion sizes and available meal swipes will be increased. Stay tuned!