By: Cullen McIntyre, Sports Editor
Numerous reports of inedible items being found in food at Brooks Dining Hall in Gorham has spurred controversy across campus and social media. Mason Henley, a junior nursing major and resident assistant in Philippi Hall, discovered a sharp object in his wrap.
“I needed to talk to the manager. The manager came up to me and I said ‘I found this razor blade in my wrap just now,’ and I handed her the razor blade and the plate with the wrap on it,” he said. “Their reactions were shocked and confused. I was also asked if I was pulling a prank or trying to sabotage Sodexo. Not professional or respectful.”
Henley followed up on the incident when he met with Kevin Wiacek, the Operations Director of Brooks Dining Hall, Kera Snyder, the Food Service Manager, and Ginny Jordan, the Executive Chef of Brooks. They directed him to a defective tomato slicer, where one of the blades had gone missing.
The 20-year-old was compensated with an apology and extra meal swipes to his account for meeting with them, but he feels like that wasn’t enough. “I think they handled it to the best of their ability, which is poor. I don’t have any issues because of the incident,” he said. “It seemed like there were multiple missing pieces of the blade, and the fact that no one caught it from the time they cut the tomatoes to the final product is a little weird.”
Abel Sostre, a sophomore electrical engineering major, had a similar experience when he found a metal scrap in his chocolate pudding the same night. Sostre was getting pudding from the dessert station at Brooks. It wasn’t until he sat down that he discovered the piece of metal in his food. “My initial reaction was surprised and to be honest a little disappointed because who would expect to find metal scrap in their food,” he said.
Mary Wallace, a freshman linguistics major, found a hair in her sandwich from the grill station. She, along with Sostre, find the incidents and seeing social media posts about items in food at Brooks leaving them uncomfortable in the dining hall. “I wouldn’t say I feel the most comfortable dining at Brooks to begin with … but it’s the only place I can eat on campus so I have to,” she said.
Sadie Fischbeck, a freshman ASL interpreting major, and Jack Goebel, a junior economics major, both witnessed hair being found in food at Brooks. For Fischbeck, she discovered the hair in her mac & cheese from the grill area last month. Since then, she has appeared at the dining hall less. “I continue to eat at Brooks because I paid for the meal plan and don’t have the money to eat elsewhere. However, I only use about four of my 10 of my weekly meal swipes,” she said.
Goebel witnessed his friend find hair in his ice cream from the dessert station at Brooks. His friend didn’t bring the hair to a Sodexo employee, but Goebel and his group of friends lost their appetites instantly. “Everyone at the table was grossed out and lost their appetite but we’ve all gone back and ate since then but it’s not like we have a choice,” he said.
In response to the instances of the inedible items found in food at Brooks Dining Hall, Tadd Stone, the General Manager of Sodexo at USM, encouraged students to reach out about their experiences. “I can’t emphasize enough here how important it is to bring these things to our team’s attention as they happen so that we can address them,” he said. “Any student should feel free to let any dining employee know if something like this happens or stop into the main dining office. They can also contact me directly at [email protected] and I’ll ensure it is addressed immediately.”
Stone stressed the importance of making sure students feel comfortable continuing to dine at Brooks Dining Hall. Along with his staff, he is confident that their ability to address an issue should a student bring it to their attention. “We take food safety very seriously. Instances of any object found in food is handled as a top priority. We have been addressing this issue daily with our staff to ensure they are keenly aware of instances where this type of thing can happen. When we are able to track something to the source, we can address immediately to prevent it from happening again,” he said.
Students have not felt satisfied with the service provided in Gorham. Though as the students have no other options to use their meal plans that are required with living on campus, they are left with eating at Brooks. Sodexo and Stone hope to amend the issues caused by the items found in the food, but as this continues, students feel uncomfortable and helpless in their dining experience in Gorham.