By: Haley Hersey, News Editor
Anna Lyons, a second-year double major in linguistics and political science said she has experienced uncooked meat and food that wasn’t what was advertised when eating Sodexo food at USM dining.
Lyons is also allergic to seafood, which she said is cooked frequently in the dining hall, so on those nights she avoids the dining hall. She said the stir fry station does cook shrimp in the same area, so she can’t have that. She hasn’t brought the issue up to Sodexo because she just avoids the dining hall altogether on those days.
“It’s hit or miss. Some things are really good, but it happens like once a month,” said Lyons.
In response to reports of undercooked or raw meats being served, Area General Manager Tadd Stone said, “While we would hope to never serve a raw product, it certainly could happen from time to time. We serve over 2500 meals across campus on a daily basis. Our employees are trained to check temperatures on all products that they serve as well as physically checking them to ensure they are cooked through.”
“As you can imagine, with this volume of meals being cooked at a time and with varying cooking times, a pan of meat could have one piece mixed in with it that may have been missed during the physical check,” said Stone. “It is very important that if a guest receives a raw or undercooked item that they bring it to any of our employees’ attention so that we can resolve it immediately.”
Second-year exercise science major Andrew Wessling said he’s frequently been served uncooked chicken and over cooked pork.
“Nine times out of 10 you’ll find something edible,” said Wessling. “But it’s not necessarily what you want. We spend way too much money on crap food. I feel like they put out these surveys all the time, but nothing ever changes.”
Each semester USM Dining Services sends out a survey to guests. Stone said they use the feedback from the survey to “make informed decisions about things that are going well or things that our guests would like to see.”
The Bite App is a result of the semesterly surveys, according to Stone. Currently they are exploring other technologies that have been requested from survey feedback.
Second-year sociology major, Joey Mitchell said he’s experienced over-cooked pasta regularly, but that the dining space is clean.
“They’re pretty sanitary, better than my high school,” said Mitchell. “It’s subpar, but they have their moments.”
Sanitary conditions are maintained in Brooks Dining Hall with two full time attendants and a part time attendant on the weekends. Stone said these employees are constantly washing tables between guests. Other locations on the Portland campus, such as Luther Bonney lobby and Abromson mezzanine are not maintained by dining services or Sodexo, but rather USM custodial staff.
Third-year nursing student, Skye Howard, said that her experiences are always unpleasant in the dining hall unless she gets cereal.
“10 out of 10 do not recommend,” said Howard.
Coby Anderson, a second-year cybersecurity major said, “I feel like they need more options, definitely more options.”
Anderson mentioned that there seems to be a lack of utensils at times.
Jose Rodriguez, also a second-year cybersecurity major, said his experience at Sodexo and USM dining is average.
“Sometimes the food is cold,” he said.
Michelle Karam, a third-year pre-med student described multiple unsatisfactory experiences in the dining hall including finding a stink bug in her salad. Karam said when she brought the bug to a Sodexo employee’s attention they said they would have to switch vendors again because their last vendor had bugs too.
Karam said, “The company is nice, the food makes me constantly run to the bathroom. Due to that, I lose time with friends and for studying.”
She said she has ordered gluten-free food before on the app, but wasn’t given gluten-free.
Zach Wezniak, a second-year business major, said “I have to come here because I am broke.”
Wezniak described finding the utensils and cups dirty regularly.
As for vegetarian options, Stone said they are always looking to increase their vegetarian and vegan options. One soup is vegetarian daily, Simple Servings has a vegetarian option daily, and stations in Brooks are primarily made-to-order to accommodate vegetarian meals.
“We added the Health and Wellness Station in Brooks Dining Hall, which features vegan entrees for both lunch and dinner daily,” said Stone.
Despite efforts for vegetarian and vegan options, for some there isn’t enough variety.
First-year human biology major, Sydney Morrison said, “I’m not a vegetarian, but I like to eat vegetarian, and I feel like the options can be subpar.”
Morrison describes her dining experience as fair and that she hasn’t particularly had an unpleasant experience with dining on campus.
Natalie Scott, a first-year elementary education major said she finds the dining hall has good options and hasn’t had an unpleasant experience either. However, she does not think she is getting her money’s worth.
Third-year social work major Heather Jones said she has found short hairs in her food before.
Jacob Lang, a third-year business marketing student said the only unpleasant experience he has had is with a rude employee. Additionally he thinks the price for dining is pretty high per meal.
Meal plans are used for staffing, food and product costs, technology and general expenses in the dining halls.
However, many students had positive things to say about Bonnie, Cindy and Paul.
Derek Malinowski, a third-year health science major said “I love the dessert section, the dessert section is fire.”
Malinowski raised the question, “Why are we not allowed to take food to go?”
He would describe his overall dining experience on campus as subpar due to dirty cups and using plastic utensils last semester.
“USM Dining Services believes strongly in being sustainable in everything that we do. Unfortunately, the labor market in the pandemic made it extremely difficult for our team to find employees willing to work,” said Stone. “There were a lot of unknowns about transmission of COVID-19 and we were not seeing individuals applying for positions that potentially come in contact with guests or items that guests had used. Additionally, there were a lot of questions around social distancing and guests sitting too close together in the dining hall. These factors lead to our decision to convert to recyclable paper products for the fall semester.”
With approximately 75 employees in Gorham and 15 in Portland, they are now back 97% capacity for their positions on campus. Increased staffing is partly due to what Stone described as a “resurgence of student workers joining the team.”