Of all the letdowns I’ve experienced on campus, none have been as frustrating as USF’s cafeteria food. The dining hall USF shows prospective students is not the one us current students eat in. While tour guides brag about the wide array of options catering to all dietary restrictions and preferences, the overall quality of the food students receive, and the restaurant-esque setting and standards they claim to maintain, current USF students face a far greasier reality.
The struggle begins before you even order. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve been late to a class because it took 30 minutes for my standard order of fries to be called. During “dead hour,” I try to avoid the cafeteria completely because the lines often stretch so long they blend together. Frankly, the questionable food is just never worth the wait. I so often spend over 20 minutes waiting for chicken tenders only to find that they are still raw on the inside – I then have to take them back and wait all over again. These inconveniences cause me to dedicate at least an hour towards eating a meal as a buffer to prevent being late, which is especially ridiculous when you consider that I have to repeat this process two to three times daily.
The problems with the cafeteria include more than just long lines. According to California’s Health and Safety code concerning handwashing, all employees shall thoroughly wash their hands “during food preparation, as often as necessary to remove soil and contamination and to prevent cross-contamination when changing tasks” and, “when switching between working with raw food and working with ready-to-eat food.” Due to the way our kitchen facilities are designed, I can very clearly see Bon Appétit staff as they work, and I frequently watch them disregard these codes. The health score dropping to an 83 came as no surprise to me. It just brings up the horrifying fact that, although I would never pay to eat at a restaurant with an 83 health rating, I am now forced to eat at one every single day.
Not only is cross-contamination a concern for every student who consumes their meals on campus, but it is particularly one for the vegetarians at USF. I happen to be the only non-vegetarian in my group of friends, and every time we eat together, I watch them cringe when they see Bon Appétit staff preparing their food. My vegetarian friend spent her first month eating solely from the salad bar. In her first week she asked a deli worker to change their gloves prior to making her sandwich due to the fact that she had just watched them handle a whole array of meat. The worker responded with such a harsh attitude about her request that she was too nervous to return her food.
I know Bon Appétit and USF alike often brag about their variety of vegetarian options. I distinctly remember them talking about it on my tour and I hear them boast about it during tours they bring through the cafeteria. Yet the vegetarian station is only open sporadically, the cross-contamination at the grill, salsa bar, and deli is too blatant to even consider offering a fully vegetarian option, and although I’m a fan of pizza, you can only live off of it for so long. I can’t imagine how those with severe allergies, or students who keep Kosher or Halal, must feel.
All of these issues are worsened by the fact that in any other situation, if I had horrible cramps and consistently felt ill and bloated every time after eating at a restaurant, I would just choose to never return. If I suffered through a long line to only notice extreme cross-contamination, health code violations and a general disregard for the quality of my food, I would simply rate them poorly on Yelp and let all my friends know to avoid that place. But Bon Appétit has monopolized food on campus. They can slack on their standards, because where else are we going to go? I certainly can’t afford to eat out frequently after paying for the meal plan in advance, and there’s only so many pre-made options for sale up at Wolf and Kettle on Lone Mountain.
USF needs someone to hold Bon Appétit accountable – someone who cares about the health and overall happiness of our student body. On top of all the stresses of student life, I think it is terribly unfair to subject us to yet another concern. I, personally, would be a lot happier if I didn’t have to dread my dinner on the daily.