Over the past two weeks, students have taken to the Facebook “USF Class of …” groups using the hashtag #FreshIsSketch to air their frustration with the Fresh Food Company dining hall.
Complaints range from small portions and a lack of food to having a hard time finding clean silverware and discovering inedible objects in their food.
Furthermore, students have reservations about the quality of their experience at Fresh Foods proportionate to the cost of a meal plan, which ranges from $749 – $1,780 per semester.
“Since arriving on campus, I’ve learned to dread walking into Fresh Foods,” Emily Hickman, a freshman majoring in civil engineering, said.
“The food is often the same and undercooked. There’s always a struggle to not only find silverware but to find clean silverware. Normally, you’ll find a fork with some dried food on it.”
She recalled one specific incident where the only silverware she could find was covered in “rotten eggs” and “what appeared to be puke.” She proceeded to inform one of the managers.
Aramark, a food service company, provides the food for USF Dining.
After multiple attempts to reach Aramark, Simone Martin, Aramark’s marketing manager, said in a statement that health and safety are the company’s first priority.
“Nothing is more important to USF Dining than food safety and the customer experience we deliver,” she said.
But students, including Hickman, have still expressed concerns about what goes into the food.
“Another unsettling experience I’ve had at Fresh was when they were serving some sort of prison-like mystery meat,” Hickman said. “I asked the man serving it ‘What is in this meat sauce?’ I was told ‘beef, turkey, and pork.’
“The next man (in line after me) asked ‘Is there pork in this? I cannot eat pork because of my religion’ and was told that there was no pork in it, seconds after (the worker) telling me otherwise.”
Emily Peterson, a junior majoring in public health, expressed similar concerns and many others, including mislabeled food, shortage of food, an overall lack of cleanliness and the presence a moth in her salad.
On another occasion, she said a friend of hers found a contact lens on a grape.
In addition to too-small portion sizes, students including Skylar Vandebogart, a freshman majoring in studio art, have said there are not enough options for students trying to eat healthy.
“All of this stuff is made just a little bit worse due to the fact that when there is food, it’s honestly pretty unappetizing,” Peterson said.
However, Martin said the complaints made by students are not falling on deaf ears at Aramark.
“USF Dining responded to two customer concerns posted on social media last weekend; they were not brought to a manager or staff member so we cannot validate them, but we took them very seriously,” she said. “We reached out to the students directly and met with them to address their concerns.”
Like other restaurants, dining halls have to go through regular inspections by the Florida Department of Health. Fresh Foods was inspected the beginning of September and the department didn’t find any health violations.
In fact, according to inspection reports, the last violation the dining hall received in March 2015 had to do with the temperature of some of the food being served.
“We take all customers concerns about food quality very seriously, and investigate every concern that is brought to our attention,” Martin said. “We encourage anyone with a concern about their dining experience to contact any of our managers on duty in the dining location, or one of our associates, so that we can provide immediate attention to any concerns, comments or suggestions on the spot.”
Despite Martin’s assurance, however, some students remain apprehensive about the cost of the services rendered by Fresh Food.
“I am paying thousands of dollars to eat here and it’s not safe,” Hickman said. “None of the food is appetizing and I feel like everything coming out of there is a risk to students’ health and safety.”
In the print edition of this story, Emily Peterson was incorrectly identified as a freshman majoring in civil engineering. Emily Hickman is a freshman majoring in civil engineering. Peterson is a junior majoring in public health.