February and March of the Spring 2022 semester, the Peninsula Health District of the Virginia Department of Health conducted four routine and one follow-up Educational Facility Food Service health inspections at The College of William and Mary. The inspections, conducted at Sadler Center, Commons Dining Hall, Sadler Center – Lodge 1 Catering, Sadler Center Cosi and W&M Chick-Fil-A, found multiple violations and corrected on-site violations.
Notable violations included the food time/temperature control for safety violation, protection from contamination violation, proper holding temperature violations and a lack of procedural guidelines for GI-issue events. Of particular concern to students, the inspection at the Sadler Center dining hall found raw chicken that was only partially cooked as part of a non-continuous cooking process.
Jason Aupied, the resident district manager of the College’s dining team, spoke on the violations and COSs found during the inspection of Sadler Center on Feb. 23.
“The observation and corrective actions included eight items. Several items were corrected on the spot, prior to the inspectors leaving the dining hall and no follow up visit was required,” Aupied said in a written statement.
Aupied also directly addressed the non-continuous cooking process citation.
“We were surprised by the citation for the non-continuous cooking method, which is an industry standard when cooking large amounts of protein in a short amount of time,” Aupied wrote. “The citation W&M Dining received was not because of improper cooking methods, but because we did not have the appropriate paperwork on file with VDH. That paperwork has been submitted and we are awaiting final approval. Until then, we have discontinued that cooking process.”
Aupied noted the importance of student feedback, especially real-time feedback in the dining halls. According to Aupied, earlier this year, 19 dining managers rotated throughout the dining halls to gather student feedback. He also encourages students to join the Student Culinary Council as advisors for the dining program, attend the monthly Student Town Hall meetings with Dining Director Lamar Patterson and to look out for the launch of the new dining “myDTxt” text notification system.
“While we have constant training for our team members and extremely strict quality control protocols, communication on the spot from our patrons is imperative. We encourage anyone to share their questions or concerns with us so we can investigate immediately as lapse in time can cause more difficulty trying to identify the root cause and implement immediate corrective action,” Aupied wrote.
In a highly digital age, one of the main ways students have provided feedback regarding dining is through social media platforms. After having its first account taken down, the satirical Instagram account @wm_dining_ made its first post Feb. 1 showing a stale piece of cake.
The @wm_dining_ Instagram account is a satirical page, posting images of meals that students eat in the College’s dining halls. The account is relatively controversial, receiving negative feedback that it could hurt the dining hall workers, but also receiving positive feedback that it could spark the changes necessary to help create a better dining situation for students. The owner of the account and student at the College shared how they deal with the conflicting feedback.
“There were a few times I was just considering deleting the account because I don’t want to hurt the people working in the dining halls– the minimum wage employees, they’re trying their best. But then I also got some slightly aggressive comments, so I decided to keep posting,” the owner of the @wm_dining_ account said.
The owner of the account shared that their motives behind creating the account were purely satirical and not meant to be malicious in any way. However, they also shared that if the account creates change for a better dining program, that would be great.
“It would be nice to get better food out of it. That wasn’t the goal initially. Initially, I was just making a funny account,” @wm_dining_ said.
The owner of @wm_dining_ also spoke on their reactions to the health inspection reports. After reading the entire Sadler Center report, they noted that they were not overly concerned or surprised by any of the violations.
“I wouldn’t say I was surprised. Basically, what I got from it is that the cold food was too hot, the hot food was too cold, the chicken was rare, one person wasn’t wearing gloves at one time,” @wm_dining_ said.
This attitude falls in line with a lot of the administrative rhetoric, as the dining administration team wants to assure students that many of the violations were corrected on the spot and should be little cause of concern for students.
“The food-related citations that were noted were related to the food preparation stage, not in how food was served,” Aupied said. “All items were corrected during the inspection and no follow-up was required. We are using this experience to enhance our strict protocols and ongoing trainings to ensure our students consistently enjoy the best. Rules and regulations are vital to food service. We live by them. Each dining hall is regularly and routinely inspected as part of our operations.”
“The food-related citations that were noted were related to the food preparation stage, not in how food was served,” Aupied wrote. “All items were corrected during the inspection and no follow-up was required. We are using this experience to enhance our strict protocols and ongoing trainings to ensure our students consistently enjoy the best. Rules and regulations are vital to food service. We live by them. Each dining hall is regularly and routinely inspected as part of our operations.”
Teairrah Green ’24 is particularly passionate about the College’s dining halls. Green recalled being quite disappointed with the selection of food when she transferred to the College her freshman spring semester.
“I just had really bad stomach aches,” Green said. “But I don’t know if that just comes from the shock of having the food here instead of from home.”
Green spoke on her thoughts regarding the recent dining hall inspections, saying that she believes that the College’s dining team is doing a good job of being transparent with the student body about recent issues. She questioned, in jest, about where the issue could be coming from.
“They’re not purposefully making the chicken raw,” Green said. “I just don’t think either the funding is there or the supervision.”
Aupied and the dining administration team shared that a lot of the issues in the dining halls stem from a lack of workers. He shared the steps they are taking to address this issue.
“W&M Dining currently has 50 vacancies across our operations,” Aupied wrote. “While we have been aggressive with recruitment and remain competitive with compensation, it is no secret that the food industry as a whole is experiencing a tremendous staff shortage. While we have an incredibly hardworking and dedicated staff, we are very mindful of burnout and the importance of scheduled time off. We recently hired a Night/Weekend Manager to help with that area specifically and our hiring efforts will continue until our vacancies are filled.”
Staffing shortages have been rampant across the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in industries like educational dining. So although the recent VDH health inspections shows that the College may have been a victim of this issue, there are changes being implemented to improve dining for students in the future.
In order to see the full report, visit: https://inspections.myhealthdepartment.com/va-peninsula/.