Food for thought
A photo of undercooked chicken served in a dining hall spreads on Facebook, students share dining
Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 21, 2013 00:03
It started with a photo of a bloody piece of chicken posted on Facebook early Wednesday morning.
But 989 likes, 200 shares and more than 230 angry comments after Zach Nelson posted the photo of an undercooked piece of chicken he received at the Smokehouse station at the Juniper Dining Hall about a month ago, alumni, students and parents have taken to social media to voice their complaints.
Nelson, a freshman majoring in mechanical engineering, said he was upset to discover that Juniper Dining Hall had replaced its name-brand cereal choices to generic options.
So he decided to post the month-old photo around 2 a.m. with a lengthy message, publicly airing his grievances.
“I am a conscious eater and like to control what nutrients and relatively how much I put on my plate,” he wrote. “...Let me start with the most recent noticeable ‘downgrade’ that has been made. There is no longer name brand cereal, thus suffering the lost [sic] of our delicious Frosted Flakes. I’ve noticed that on my repeated morning visits to the JP dining hall, in which I arrive shortly after breakfast, the same pot of “Mediterranean,” soup-like, curry flavored WHATEVER is amongst the first of the non-appetizing meals. Now, we proceed past the Green Zone — not always my choice, but I have enjoyed a few meals there. The American Station, always piled with tempting fries, sometimes offers shriveled up hotdogs and fowl [sic] tuna melts that have barely a helping, or even a taste, of tuna on top. It should be an embarrassment to serve such a dish.
“.... About a month or so ago, I asked for a peice [sic] of fried chicken from the highly glorified smokehouse inside the dining hall. After one bite I reached for another and well, you can see from the picture my view. I showed the guy behind the counter from where I got such a mockery peice [sic] of chicken, only to [sic] he replied with ‘well...’ and a shrug of the shoulders.”
Nelson posted the photo and went to sleep, but by the time he woke up, his inbox was filled with messages from other concerned students.
“It just kind of shocked me,” he said. “I was just excited to write something (with the photo on Facebook) to rant, but it ended up being way too long. I didn’t know how it came across until I woke up, but it was actually well said, and it reached out somewhere.”
In his Facebook post, Nelson said he feels the quality of “Argos,” or Fresh Food Company is higher than Juniper and “Andros,” also known as the Bulls Den Café.
USF Dining responded to the photo on Facebook around 5 p.m., saying they would host an advisory meeting/food forum to address Juniper dining, titled “How is your Dining Experience?” on Monday at 5 p.m. in Juniper-Poplar classroom 1319.
“We know you have been recently voicing your concerns and we thank you for the feedback,” the message said. “Hearing about your experiences, both good and bad, is instrumental for us to make USF’s dining program exceptional. Our number one goal is to provide the entire campus community with an exceptional experience, every time.”
Jenna Engel, marketing manager for Aramark dining services which manages USF Dining, said in an email statement to The Oracle that health inspections are completed quarterly at all locations on campus.
“We are licensed, inspected and regulated according to the Chapter 509, Florida Statutes FS standard,” she said.
Engel declined to comment further unless a list of prepared questions were provided via email.
Nelson said he noticed a change later the same day in the amount of management walking around observing staff in Juniper Dining. Many carried clipboards and walked around the seating and serving areas of the dining hall, a sight that could be seen even through the dinner shift.
“I could tell from the minute I walked in the dining hall,” Nelson said. “I was like ‘Wow, hey. They’re actually doing something.’ And there were a bunch of people walking around that I had never seen before, sitting there and discussing business.”
Nelson said he spoke with the director of Champion’s Choice about his concerns, and plans to talk to the director of Juniper Dining as well.
Comments on the Facebook photo poured in as the day progressed and students such as Karisa Eustace, a freshman majoring in athletic training, said they wrote letters to Aramark expressing their frustrations with the dining hall.
In her letter, Eustace said she was frustrated with being forced to purchase a meal plan, despite living in an apartment on-campus that is equipped with a full kitchen and refrigerator. She also said her religious dietary habits make it difficult to find foods in the dining hall that she is able to eat, and she has found the quality of the meat served in the dining halls to be “poor.”