June 14, 2004
Free lunch for faculty, staff offers a taste
of dining hall changes
By Louise Donahue
If you havent been to a campus dining hall lately, Wednesday
might be a good time to check one out. Faculty and staff members are
invited to a free lunch at their nearest campus dining hall from noon
to 1:30 p.m. on June 16. (Crown-Merrill Dining Hall is undergoing repairs,
and wont be open that day.)
The soft opening of the new university-run dining hall
service is the culmination of months of surveys, menu changes, staff
training, and planning as the campus prepares to launch its own dining
We want to showcase what we can do and get feedback, said
Alma Sifuentes, director of residential and dining services, noting
that Dining Services offers salads, vegan and vegetarian options, as
well as soup, sandwiches, and desserts. Our primary goal is a
seamless transition. Weve been working for this day for 15 months
so the fact that its almost here is exhilarating.
It was back in September of 2003 that employees for the Sodexho company,
which then provided campus dining services, reapplied to become UCSC
employees, in preparation for the June 20 transition to a UCSC-run dining
operation. Sodexhos role in managing dining service continued
in the interim as the University Dining Services Transition Team developed
and implemented the business plan and the organizational infrastracture.
Living wage for workers
A key reason for the change to a university-run dining service was
to provide workers with a living wage as part of a UC workforce, matching
dining services with the values and mission of the university and student
expectations. The change also was designed to allow the campus to have
closer control of dining services.
Workers hired by UCSC saw an average pay increase of about $3 an hour,
from an average of $8.50 to $11.50. Under Sodexho, most employees were
part-timers without benefits, but they now are receiving UC benefits.
Theyve been very, very appreciative, Sifuentes said.
I think theyve appreciated feeling part of the campus.
Back in spring quarter, the new employees were given five days of training,
including a trip to the library and other campus resources, and a certificate
to mark completion of their training.
Many had worked at UCSC for years, and for some of them it was
the first time they had ever received any recognition, Sifuentes
said, noting that several employees were photographed with their certificates.
That was particularly poignant for me, said Sifuentes.
The most controversial result of the changeover is the requirement
that students living in apartments pay for a dining hall meal plan.
This is necessary because labor costs are now a substantial part of
the campus dining services budget, Sifuentes explained.
'Significant' cost increase
For someone living in an apartment, the increase will be significant,
Sifuentes said. To cushion the blow, Dining Services is consulting with
student groups, including an advisory group at Kresge, where all the
students live in apartments rather than residence halls. One possibility,
Sifuentes said, is that students in apartments will be able to use their
meal plan money to buy food staples so they can cook for themselves.
Responsiveness is one of the benefits of the new system, Sifuentes
said. Were going to respond faster to the feedback we get.
Dining hall hours are being changed to reflect preferences expressed
in surveys and focus groups. Meal plans will continue to be all-you-care-to-eat,
but now students may come in the dining hall as many times as they want
throughout the day without plan restrictions. We now know that
students dont hold traditional meal hours.
Dining Services is also working closely with the Student Environmental
Center and the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems
to increase the amount of organic and locally grown produce as well
as sustainable food products. The goal for this coming year is
to have 2 percent of the dining services produce meet sustainability
guidelines, said Sifuentes. The percentage may seem small,
but there are limitations in availability of locally and organically
Produce from UCSC Farm
Sifuentes said the campus Farm will provide fresh produce and flowers,
when available, and education on sustainable food systems will be available
in the dining halls.
The changes have drawn some notice to Dining Services, which recently
picked up two awards. An Excellence in Diversity award from the Equal
Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action Office cited the bilingual
training program for the new Dining Services workforce, which includes
many Spanish-speaking Latinos who do not speak English.
A second award, at the Sustainability Awards Ceremony, praised University
Dinings leadership in campus sustainability and the introduction
of Community Agroecology Network-certified fair-trade coffee in dining
halls, which will also be available in the coffee carts on Science Hill
beginning in the next academic year (see earlier Currents
story). Use of electric vehicles and composting were also cited
in the award.
The Division of Student Affairs also recognized the efforts of the
dining transition by awarding the University Dining Services Transition
Team its Annual Certificate of Merit in recognition of exemplary support
of new and innovative programs that advance the effectiveness and efficiency
of services to students.
While the dining halls have always been open to faculty and staff as
well as students, Sifuentes said there is a new emphasis on attracting
a broader clientele.
We really want to reach out to our faculty and staff. This is
a work in progress and our goal is to be able to meet their dining needs
to make this happen. In turn, we hope that the campus assists us by
letting us know what those needs are."
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