Raw chicken and moldy fruit in JP worry students

Logan Suits discovered a moldy plum at JP Dining. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/LOGAN SUITS 

Residents at the Juniper-Poplar Hall (JP) residence hall don’t expect five-star quality meals, but they do expect quality in terms of ripe fruit and cooked chicken. Lately, some students have been upset that they have to deal with just that. 

On the Class of 2021 Facebook page, a couple of students posted photos of spoiled fruit and undercooked chicken they found while at JP Dining. Logan Suits, a freshman majoring in microbiology, was one of the students who decided to post about the moldy plum he found when he stopped to dine at JP. 

After swiping his Bull Bucks card, Suits said he picked up the fruit and took a bite before regretting it. 

“As I was biting into it, it kind of came apart,” Suits said. “I noticed there was white inside, so I stopped and spit out what I had in my mouth.” 

Considering that meal plans range in price from about $1,600 to about $1,800, Suits said he is upset the situation ever happened. As mentioned by Suits, meal plans aren’t optional for incoming freshman, which he said makes the situation all the more frustrating for him. 

“I think that if we are required to pay for food, it should be of some sort of quality,” Suits said. 

As of 5 p.m. March 21, his Facebook post got 42 reactions and 20 comments ranging from anger to annoyance. However, he wasn’t the only one who snapped a photo and posted about the contamination of certain fruits. 

Jenny Medema, a freshman majoring in public health, is a resident at JP who also took to Facebook to warn others of a spoiled orange she encountered. 

“I was about to cut it and that’s when I realized that it had mold coming from the inside of the orange,” Medema said. 

Maddie Barrow was taken aback after seeing traces of pink in her chicken sandwich. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/MADDIE BARROW

According to Jessica Cicalese, he marketing director with USF Dining, action was taken once she and the rest of administration were made aware of mold on specific fruits. 

“Automatically, we pulled all the stone fruit from being served to students,” Cicalese said. “We then contacted our vendor immediately.” 

Cicalese said she didn’t know the exact type of mold found on the plums and oranges, but she makes it clear that it wasn’t something that could’ve been anticipated. 

“This was not visible to the eye,” Cicalese said. “(The mold) was around the stone or the pit of the fruit.”

Until another vendor is found, Cicalese said stone fruit is no longer being given to residents and students. Though other varieties of fruits will be available at JP Dining, Cicalese plans to implement fruit sampling that will provide diners with fresh fruit and educate students on their daily intake.

“We are going to have our current registered dietitian do fresh fruit days, where she would come and cut up fruit and actually provide accurate servings of fruit for students,” Cicalese said. “This way, they are getting educated about proper portions and serving sizes of fresh fruit.”

Jenny Medema took to Facebook to share the mold growing inside her orange. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/JENNY MEDEMA

While spoiled fruit didn’t make many students happy, the raw chicken that was also served at JP Dining has sparked multiple complaints by students who dine there. 

Brandon Shelbaugh, a freshman majoring in global business, said the undercooked chicken has always been a problem for him at JP Dining. 

“Twice that I’ve been eating lunch (at JP Dining), I’ve realized half way through eating my chicken was still pink in the middle,” Shelbaugh said.  

Cicalese said that once she was made aware of the raw chicken being served, Cicalese contacted the manager and pulled the chicken straightaway. 

Cicalese said she made sure to contact the individuals and proceeded to take actions on their behalf. 

“Ultimately, I want to make sure that they’re eating something of quality,” Cicalese said. “I want to make sure they’re refunded and that they’re getting food overall.” 

Firing someone was not in the list of actions to take, but Cicalese said she’s evaluating the person who was preparing the chicken or monitoring the station at the time it was served. Actions such as moving someone to another station and retraining have also been instituted. 

“Training is obviously in the utmost importance when it comes to food,” Cicalese said. “If someone is not qualified to properly prepare a dish or if they’re not following our procedures, they won’t be cooking that dish again or they won’t be working that station again.”

However, there was another post made by Kaylene Vezina on the Class of 2021 Facebook page on March 19 making another complaint of raw chicken served in JP dining. 

“I love going to Juniper Dining to eat all three meals during the day but today, I was disappointed,” Vezina wrote. “I thought it was safe to eat the deep-fried chicken until I cut it open today and it was raw on the inside. The best part was when I returned it to the counter. The guy working there looked at my piece of chicken and said, “Oh yeah, that does look raw” and then continued to put a new piece of chicken ON TOP OF THE RAW ONE. He didn’t give me a new plate and didn’t even think twice to do so until I asked. I swear, somebody is trying to poison us.”

Although specific measures have been taken for both the undercooked chicken and the moldy stone fruit situation, Suits said he’s annoyed over the continuous problems JP Dining has with food.

“I think that most restaurants don’t have these problems and I don’t understand why this is different,” Suits said.