Pomona College Food Committee Conducts Dining Hall Survey

The results of the Associated Students of Pomona College’s Food Committee’s Dining Hall Survey came in Mar. 26. The committee has and will continue to discuss the results and how relevant changes can be implemented at the school’s dining halls.

The idea to create a Food Committee-sponsored survey came up last year, Stephanie Almeida PO ’11 said, who, as North Campus Representative, co-chairs the Food Committee. Although Sodexo already had a practice of sending out brief, yearly surveys, Almeida said the committee considered this insufficient.

“They always give us those Frank and Frary results and we’re sort of like, ‘Well, this is good, but it doesn’t really give us details,’” she said. “So one of the focuses of the year before this year was to really try to find ways to get more input.”

In addition to gathering more input, South Campus Representative Jeff Levere PO ‘12, who co-chairs the committee, said they also sought more relevant feedback.

“We thought it would be best to formalize a survey for Pomona-specific dining halls,” Levere said.

The idea, however, was put on the shelf for about a year, until it became a priority again after this winter break.

Although the entire committee contributed ideas for what the survey should include, Almeida took particular responsibility for drafting questions.

The survey was open from Mar. 9 through 26. Over this time, the committee collected 599 responses, constituting 38.7 percent of the student body. Surveys are normally considered successful if 25 percent of students participate.

The survey provided the committee with a great deal of valuable information.

“Frank and Frary are generally considered the worst dining halls of any of the 5Cs,” Levere said.

Almeida, however, said the situation could result from factors other than the quality of the food.

“It’s unclear how much of it is just the fact that you’re eating there more, and you see the same dishes week to week to week, and they become less and less appealing,” Almeida said.”Other [schools’ students], I’m sure, would not rank us last.”

Nonetheless, the Food Committee recommended cutting several food items as a result of the survey results, especially certain vegetarian and vegan options many students said they disliked. Any item that received a 2.75 out of 5 possible points was cut, including stuffed cabbage rolls and vegan shepherd’s pie.

“[Generally, students} don’t like when we try and make complex vegetarian dishes when they’d be way better if they were more simple,” Levere said.

Apart from vegetarian dishes, meals being cut include Frary’s hot dog bar and nacho bar.

Levere added that the committee got hundreds of recipe suggestions from vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike.

The survey also included a page with questions about the issue of disappearing table and silverware. This has been a long-term problem, but may have been augmented by the advent of reusable take-out containers—when students forget them, they are more likely to steal plates or bowls to bring food back to the dorms.

“People are keeping the cups in their room,” said Almeida. “So then it’s a sustainability issue, it’s a cost issue, it’s an annoyance issue because people like their big blue cups, but there are no more big blue cups.”

Almeida said the committee is considering adding more “amnesty days” for students to bring their stolen dishes back to the dining halls without repercussion or installing return boxes outside RAs’ doors.

The committee also hopes to deal with labeling issues.

The dining halls attempted to label their dishes with more nutritional information last year, but the trend did not last.

“Some students think it’s a really bad thing because of counting calories,” Almeida said, adding that may have been one of the reasons the increased labeling was eventually abandoned.

She said a new system has already been put in place, and that dining services has been working on compiling a book of nutrition and other information about food items, which she said she hoped would eventually lead to better labeling.

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