Columns / Discourse / Featured / February 22, 2017

Working toward a better cafeteria

As I’m sure we’ve all noticed, the quality of the cafeteria has gone down. The selection has decreased, and if there is still food left in the serving pans it turns out to be hastily made. Certainly, this isn’t something we want, nor should we get used to. The cafeteria is the only place to get food for most students, and yet we’re highly unsatisfied with what is given to us. As a student, I’m disappointed in how some of the most basic of dishes seem to be undercooked (here’s looking at the rice). As a worker for Dining Services, I can’t apologize enough to the student body.

It’s not easy being a worker back behind the serving lines. I used to have fun with my job before Bon AppŽétit, but now it’s been much tougher. I’m constantly forced to rush around to refill serving pans, clean the counters, put out dishes and much more. It’s ridiculous. My co-workers feel the same way as I do about how tiring and unfulfilling the job has become. Under just a few new rules implemented in Winter Term, the cafeteria workers are suddenly left far behind and unable to meet the needs of us student diners. Cooks are forced to serve poorly-prepared food while fruit baskets and the salad bar are left empty because workers can no longer find the time under new responsibilities for catering. We’re run ragged trying to keep food out for students and also complete the other tasks on our eternal to-do lists. But how can we change the system?

We’ve tried before to get the attention of the new company, Bon AppéŽtit. We’ve written in their comment cards about the quality and variety of food, we’ve talked to workers to notify them of complaints and even the workers call out how ridiculous the new systems are (to list a few: tiny serving pans, useless labels, basket napkin holders. Really? You don’t think someone could just spill water and waste 50 napkins, Bon Appétit?) And yet, the quality of service gets lower, and the amount of stress grows larger.

But, we can’t have anything changed if we all just hunker down and grumble into our dishes. It’s disheartening to know that any complaints we write for Bon AppŽétit seem to never appear on the comment board, nor do any of the complaints seem to actually be addressed, but we have to keep them coming. If we keep quiet, as we are now, they’ll think everyone is accepting how the cafeteria is run. We need to be notifying the higher-ups that we aren’t satisfied with the quality of the food. Maybe then, they’ll be convinced to change something. We attacked them before which caused them to shut down anything we had to say, but this time we need to offer criticism and alternatives instead of “the food sucked today.” Yelling vague complaints won’t get us anywhere, as we have already seen. We need to be more helpful in what we say to Bon AppŽétit.

It would also be great if students were also helpful to the workers as well. During my work shifts, I’m greeted with spilled food on all the counters and plates that are just left lying around. People even decide to leave their dirty dishes instead of bringing them to the conveyor belt. It makes the cafeteria look awful and puts more work on the already strained workers. We don’t have to present ourselves as some disorganized student body who complain about the mess that we’re causing. Let’s be helpful, to both the workers and to Bon AppŽétit. Cleaning up after ourselves, asking for refills with respect and offering constructive criticism to Knox Dining Service is something I’m sure this college is capable of doing, and we can finally have some better food in the cafeteria.

Monica Wichmann

Tags:  bon appetit cafeteria column discourse

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Feb 23, 2017

Things really changed after my grandmother (Alice Fidler) left. The Pinky and many others that cared about what was served to the Knox students and faculty.

Feb 24, 2017

Man, this sounds awful. I was in the ancient class of 2004. The Caf was always a super awesome place to be with good food and nice people…. maybe the old times were better after all 😉 …Anyway, I hope that things improve with all this activism so you can finally have good food and good jobs again. Best of luck, themba

Feb 24, 2017

I have Over 20 plus years in Food service, I know how important eye appeal, and the correct temp is in the serving of food. If the food is Ill prepared ,under cooked the chance of making someone sick is high, or the Item may just be passed by and have to thrown out leaving to waste, and high food cost. Temps on the serving table must be kept above 140 degrees F for hot food, to keep it safe , and on the salad bar it must be kept below 41, this is part of the 2 hour rule .

What gets me is why cant they assign one person to keep fruit and salad full, during a meal ? . Fruit should be available any time, not only is it a good source of fiber but also a quick snack for those studying.

Now for the workers and Cooks. state regs
(410 ILCS 625/3.05)
    Sec. 3.05. Non-restaurant food handler training.
    (a) All food handlers not employed by a restaurant as defined in Section 3.06 of this Act, other than someone holding a food service sanitation manager certificate, must receive or obtain training in basic safe food handling principles as outlined in subsection (b) of this Section within 30 days after employment. There is no limit to how many times an employee may take the training. Training is not transferable between individuals or employers. Proof that a food handler has been trained must be available upon reasonable request by a State or local health department inspector and may be in an electronic format.
    (b) Food handler training must cover and assess knowledge of the following topics:
        (1) The relationship between time and temperature
with respect to foodborne illness, including the relationship between time and temperature and micro-organisms during the various food handling preparation and serving states, and the type, calibration, and use of thermometers in monitoring food temperatures.
        (2) The relationship between personal hygiene and
food safety, including the association of hand contact, personal habits and behaviors, and the food handler’s health to foodborne illness, and the recognition of how policies, procedures, and management contribute to improved food safety practices.
        (3) Methods of preventing food contamination in all
stages of food handling, including terms associated with contamination and potential hazards prior to, during, and after delivery.
        (4) Procedures for cleaning and sanitizing equipment
and utensils.
        (5) Problems and potential solutions associated with
temperature control, preventing cross-contamination, housekeeping, and maintenance.

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