After unusually long lines and numerous student complaints, Sodexo finally brought meal swipes back to Marketplace. While this is a good start to repairing Sodexo’s shaky relationship with students, more changes are needed. Since students are required to purchase a meal plan, Sodexo must continue listening to students’ comments and adjusting its policies accordingly.
One area of concern is the variety of food for students with untraditional diets. Vegans, vegetarians and students with food allergies often struggle to find a variety of high-quality food options. As more students with special diets enter the College of William and Mary, Dining Services needs to get more creative to accommodate them; students should not have to compromise their health or moral beliefs to attend the College.
More broadly, during certain hours all food options are limited. Students whose schedules force them to eat during non-traditional mealtimes — between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. and between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. — find few open food stations. We understand that, during those times, dining halls are preparing for the lunch and dinner crowds, as well as for late night dining. Individual stations, however, do not all have to prepare at the same time. Certain stations could remain open while others prepare, providing students with more balanced options. For example, the omelet station could remain open past 10 a.m. and the vegan station could remain open between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.
During crowded meal times, supplies often run low. A constant fork shortage plagues the Sadler Center’s Center Court and the Commons Dining Hall, which could be solved through better planning — or simply buying more forks. Similarly, late-night dining’s food depletes quickly, leaving hungry students low on dining dollars with even fewer options after 8 p.m. Dining Services ought to allocate more food to late-night.
Dining also needs to improve food labeling. Certain foods like pasta sauce may contain meat, which students may not be able to see. Additionally, dining should provide more nutritional information on all of its labels, including calorie counts, cholesterol, saturated and unsaturated fats and carbohydrates. Since students are required to be on the meal plan, they have a right to freely access that information.
To better inform students, Dining Services should also make menus available online — something that Aramark, the College’s previous dining provider, used to do. Students appreciated knowing what their choices were, and would be grateful if dining provided that information again.
Of course, Sodexo cannot respond effectively if students are not engaged. Angry tweets and Facebook statuses about Sodexo may feel satisfying, but they are unproductive. Text ‘n’ Tell allows students to express their complaints, and even their praise. Students need to use this resource if we expect dining services to know what we want; dining options can only improve when Sodexo can hear us.
While switching to Sodexo saved money for the College, students’ meal plans aren’t getting any cheaper. Students expect high-quality dining services — that take all students’ health, schedules and dietary needs into account — for the money they’ve put in.