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Students voice opinions during SGA Food Forum

By Kelly Mayo
News Editor

February 23, 2012

Photo by MIndy Hubbard
Students eat and relax outside Bert's Cafe. About 22 students and SGA representatives asked Dining Services staff about food choice and quality at the Food Forum on Feb. 15.

Four members of UNCP Dining Services listened to students' concerns and answered questions at the SGA Food Forum in the UC lounge on Feb. 15.

General Manager of Dining Services Jim Halcombe, Executive Chef Juan Ramirez, Starbucks Manager Jane Kay and Operations Manager Cassandra Lowry faced about 22 students at the forum.

Questions ranged from food safety to choice variety in the cafeteria, Bert's Café and Starbucks.

SGA Academic and Student Affairs Committee Chair Brianna Buchanan managed the forum.

'Tweaking' variety

Variety in dining choices, particularly in the cafeteria, came up several times during the forum.

Halcombe sympathized with students about variety, saying that his daughter often complains about the same thing.

"If you eat there day in and day out, it's going to get monotonous," Halcombe said.

He encouraged students to leave suggestions in the comment box located near the exit of the cafeteria.

"The more specific, the better," Halcombe said.

Ramirez also sympathized with students looking for more food choices and encouraged them to use the comment box.

"We have the capacity of tweaking the menu to suit the needs of students. Without feedback, we're shooting in the dark," Ramirez said.

Safety precautions

Halcombe also talked about procedures UNCP Dining Services use to ensure food safety.

He said that he and his colleagues took a 16-hour state course for certification in food safety.

He also said that workers go through "extensive training" before classes start in August, and that the North Carolina health department and a third party inspector visit the cafeteria periodically to make inspections. The third party inspector gave a grade of 99 after its latest visit, Halcombe said.

Additionally, Halcombe said that Dining Services works closely with the nursing department "to see if there's an issue" with food on campus.

Suggestion for Bert's

UNCP student Johnathan Mark Jacobs asked the panel why Bert's Café had changed so much. He compared Bert's current atmosphere to "throwing a piece of meat in a hyena cage," and mourned the loss of Godfather sandwiches.

"We don't need more options. We need Bert's back," Jacobs said to applause from the audience.

Lowry said that Bert's had undergone a change in concept in the last few years.

"It's sad but true, but when management changed, the food options changed," Lowry said.

'A want and a need'

The forum accomplished more than just the sharing of ideas. The panel made decisions on food options based on comments from the audience.

Government Operations Committee Chair Christopher Hudson said that he and his peers disliked how the cafeteria stopped its practice of serving fried chicken on Wednesdays. Ramirez said he would reinstate the practice.

"Now I know there's a want and a need for it," Ramirez said.

Another student said she wanted sweet potato fries back.

Holcombe said that despite their limited popularity, he would try serving them again.

"We'll bring them back, but y'all are going to have to buy them now," Halcombe said.

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