New Food and Dining Committee meetings to voice current on-campus dining concerns
Amidst changes Bon Appétit has made to the dining experience, a new body looks to help reform Bon Appétit to better serve the campus community. The inaugural meeting of the Food and Dining Committee takes place on Oct. 10 and will give students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to collectively voice any concerns they may have.
Its purpose, according to Senior Director of Student Housing and Residential Education (SHaRE) Torry Broulliard-Bruce, is to provide feedback and guidance on how to manage all food and dining needs on campus. He added that the committee will act as a sounding board to reflect issues students notice regarding the Market Café, colloquially known as the Caf.
“It is really about getting the voices together to be able to strategize and prioritize and triage what may be more immediate needs and then give those to the people who can make the decisions,” he explained.
ASUSF Senate and the Residence Hall Association will also work in conjunction with the committee. For the committee’s inaugural meeting, representatives from these two organizations will act as representatives for USF’s student body.
The committee aims to conduct a survey of the student body to gauge student concerns surround dining. ASUSF’s Vice President of Advocacy Paolo Sayas, a junior politics major, explained that this survey would incentivize Bon Appétit and the University to listen to student voices, as a survey would clearly identify and streamline the various concerns that students have with on-campus dining.
According to Sayas, one short-term goal that ASUSF Senate plans on proposing during the meeting is the implementation of farmers markets on campus every two months. The hope for this, according to Sayas, is to have accessible produce that is low-cost, high-quality, and Flexi-friendly.
Another short-term goal is “making sure that Bon Appétit is adhering to quality and food standards,” Sayas said. He said the health score controversy, in which Bon Appétit has been cited for multiple health code violations, should be addressed so standards are met. Although Bon Appétit’s catering services has a health score of 98, Sayas explained, the actual caf score is 80.
Sayas said, overall, he wants to use his time on the committee to focus on food insecurity and sustainability issues.
“If you take into account the standard meal plan for Flexi, and you divide it by how many days you have in a semester, it is barely $22 a day,” Sayas explained. “That is just not sustainable. Students can not afford three meals a day.”
In response to this calculation, Garrett O’Doherty, the top USF administrator who oversees Bon Appétit, said that the figure of $22 per day would be a “low average.” He added that the calculation is subjective as spending value depends on how each student utilizes the food service.
“The reality is that a student will not eat every meal on campus, which is the case for weekends and holidays where most students leave campus,” he clarified.
When asked if he thinks Bon Appétit and the University will take the Food and Dining Committee’s proposals seriously, Sayas said he believes they should. If they do not, he said the committee and ASUSF Senate will add pressure through organizing student petitions.
“We may not get to Bon Appétit by tomorrow,” Sayas said. However, he believes reforms will have to take place. “I do think that there will be systemic changes, because I do see the struggles students face. I think there is enough student concern around this specific issue.”
Vice President of the USF Faculty Association Keally McBride explained that she hopes the University and Bon Appétit will take student and faculty concerns seriously. “The University has a record of putting together committees and ignoring everything that they say,” she said.
McBride said she plans to assume the role of faculty representative for the Food and Dining Committee.
“I spend a lot of time talking to students,” McBride, who is also a professor of politics and international studies, said. “Bon Appétit is the No. 1 bone of contention here on campus.”
McBride said she sees herself as an ally for students, as well as a voice to raise faculty concerns. “It just seems like [Bon Appétit] is not fulfilling its role of providing safe, quality, well-priced food at the right hours for our student body,” she explained.
One of the topics McBride plans to discuss during her time on the Food and Dining Committee is the contract USF has with Bon Appétit.
“I am hoping that this committee will at least provide some kind of report that will guide the administration when they are re-negotiating the contract with Bon Appétit, and maybe even urge them to break their future ties with them,” McBride said.
She said that, ultimately, if students aren’t satisfied with the quality of their food and are facing food insecurity, it is negatively impacting their educational experience.
Broulliard-Bruce said he approached O’Doherty and Micah Cavolo, Bon Appétit’s district manager, with the idea to develop the Food and Dining Committee. He said both parties were extremely receptive to the proposal.
“Bon Appétit and USF desire constructive feedback on the services being offered,” O’Doherty said in an email. “The objective is to continually push forward on maintaining quality, efficiency and affordability.”
Cavolo said in an email that Bon Appétit welcomes any feedback, but he asks that it be delivered in a respectful manner.
“We want feedback and want suggestions on how best to improve the students and faculty’s experiences. That is the only motivation to forming a committee, to have a forum to get constructive feedback, sharing of ideas and expressions of concerns,” Cavolo said. “If we are missing the mark, we need to address that.”
The committee, according to Broulliard-Bruce, can share ideas and concerns, but does not have the ability to mandate or dictate change. All concerns raised are handed over to Cavolo and O’Doherty, who make the final decision.
Cavolo said that all proposals will be considered, but he and Bon Appétit will need to “vet them with [USF] prior to any actual implementation.”
“As for the dining committee’s impact, I believe if we can talk through concerns and get to the root issues, that could invoke change,” Cavolo said.
As of now, Broulliard-Bruce said he plans on holding the committee meetings once a semester. After the October meeting, the next gathering will take place in February 2020. In the future, he said he hopes to have an open-call application process for those interested in participating.