Meeting airs food service gripes

Students complained about residence hall food quality and mandatory meal plans.

Students living in residence halls expressed disgust at a meeting with University Dining Services officials Wednesday over the requirement to purchase meal plans.

The Minnesota Student Association hosted the event “in order to get regular students in there to be able to tell specific comments, concerns and questions to administrators,” MSA member Scott LeBlanc said. “It’s nice to make sure everyone has the opportunity to have their voices heard.”

Thirty students attended the meeting.

MSA member Mike May said even though students in residence halls are required to buy meal plans, many of them do not eat all of the meals for which they pay.

UDS operations director Karen DeVet agreed, saying, “students that eat more than average are getting better value than students who eat less than average.”

She also said that although meals do not carry over from semester to semester, Flex-dine balances do. Flex-dine dollars are included in all meal plans, and can be used to purchase items at various on-campus locations.

Students also claimed they were unable to use Flex-dine to pay for guests at certain residence halls, even though they should have been.

DeVet said UDS officials might speak with employees about the issue.

Other students said the quality of some dining halls – such as Sanford Hall – was better than the quality of others.

But UDS Director Larry Weger said UDS officials attempt to spend equally on food for every dining hall.

All dining halls use the same food and recipes, DeVet said, but attributed Sanford Hall’s appeal to its open feel compared to the dining hall at Centennial Hall, which is located in a basement.

Spanish and Portuguese studies student Aaron Kocher suggested instead of UDS hosting theme nights, it could have theme locations, where the type of food served would differ at each dining hall. He said this might improve the food quality.

Because residence halls are located throughout the campus, Weger said that system could limit the food options for some students.

Susan Stubblefield, assistant director for Housing and Residential Life, said they are looking into differentiating UDS services between Centennial and Pioneer halls.

UDS and the University have a 10-year contract that started in 1998, but either party has the option to break that contract each December.