Everyone seems to have something to say about the CDR and campus dining services. Whether it is praise for a new meal option, or criticism regarding the soy milk offerings, comments are of every variety and range from well-founded concerns to nit-picky quibbles. The problem with such an eclectic and disjointed body of commentary however, is that it has little momentum and ability to improve the very issues students complain about.
The newly formed Food Advisory Committee is a Wittenberg student-led initiative to address this very issue, intending to become an outlet for student opinions and concerns, as well as to serve as a liaison between Wittenberg students and Wittenberg Dining Services and Sodexo.
As sophomore Brandon Pytel, the Residence Hall Association (RHA) Student Senator and one of the founding members of the new Food Advisory Committee explains, the organization, now a year in the making, grew out of conversations held during some of the first meetings of the newly elected RHA in April and May of last year. Since everyone who lives in a Wittenberg residence hall is required to have a meal plan, the dining experience seemed like an appropriate issue for the RHA to become involved in, according to Pytel.
The committee has quickly grown to include the support and involvement of relevent Wittenberg staff, including Donna Picklesimer, the Director of Business Services; Noah Ristau, General Manager of Wittenberg Dining Services; and Leadership Initiatives Coordinator Dana Carnes.
The Food Advisory Committee grew out of an obvious need to gather and organize student suggestions and complaints, according to Pytel, instead of having CDR comment cards as the only way to gauge student opinion.
“I’ve talked to Noah [Ristau] and they keep seeing comment cards that contradict each other . . . they don’t have an actual number of how many people feel this way and they can’t really do anything about it,” he explains. Pytel offers the example of students complaining about the temperature of the bowls next to meal stations last year: “People would want them cold and then some people would want them hot. So they put them out hot and everyone complains, they put them out cold and everyone complains.”
According to Pytel, the committee intends to immediately begin addressing specific student concerns, such as the lack of variety and the quality of weekend meals, vegetarian and vegan options, concerns raised by Wittenberg athletes whose practice schedules are at odds with CDR hours, or having additional options for meal plans and meal swaps.
In addition to addressing student concerns, the committee also intends to acknowledge the issues Dining Services have with regards to the students. This includes the CDR’s chronic struggle against the theft of plates, bowls and cups. What students themselves might not realize is that the funds expended every year to replace stolen inventory could instead be used to expand and improve menu options and better address the concerns that students themselves express.
In order to represent the interests of the entirety of the Wittenberg student body, the Advisory Committee includes representatives from nearly all student organizations, including the RHA, Student Senate, as well as special interest groups, representing vegetarians and vegans, student athletes, those with special dietary needs as well as green advocacy. Student groups like Concerned Black Students and the American International Organization are also involved.
So far, response has been positive from the side of students and administration alike. Commenting on the reaction from Dining Services, Pytel says: “you really can’t ask for much more out of Noah [Ristau]. He’s been coming to all our meetings, he’s responding to all our emails and it looks like he really wants to be more responsive to what the students want.”
Students should look out for upcoming opinion surveys and news of the Food Advisory Committee around campus and in their email inboxes. Although all representative positions have been filled, the committee welcome all students interest in this latest organized strive for a brighter dining future.
(Martin Lukk / email@example.com)