Eric Gofen PO ’19 has never missed a snack. Every Sunday through Wednesday between snack’s designated hours of 10-11 p.m., Gofen can be found munching on classics like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or nachos at Pomona College’s Frary Dining Hall.
More than a regular, Gofen’s consistent attendance has reigned him “the king of snack,” according to a comment by Annie Price PO ’20 in the public Facebook group “What’s at Snack.”
However, Frary began frequently cancelling the late-night tradition this semester. According to the Pomona Dining Services General Manager, Jose Martinez, snack has been cancelled about 10 times this semester, one-eighth of all free snack nights.
“We have been experiencing a big shortage of staff,” Martinez wrote in an email to TSL. He attributes this shortage to a myriad of issues, including medical, disability, sick days, and open positions.
According to Martinez, the shortage has lead to “almost 20 percent absenteeism in a given day,” totaling 16-20 absent employees, vastly decreasing the availability of staff to work snack. Martinez also noted that in past years, Pomona has cancelled snack extremely infrequently.
“Snack is a Pomona event that breeds genuine connections. … I feel like there’s a real community among the snack regulars, and it’s nice to see them and enjoy a small meal. I even bring board games sometimes.”
A snack regular, Gofen emphasized the importance of snack as a non-academic space for community gathering.
“Snack is a Pomona event that breeds genuine connections,” he said. “I feel like there’s a real community among the snack regulars, and it’s nice to see them and enjoy a small meal. I even bring board games sometimes.”
However, Martinez wrote that Pomona Dining Services has more service hours than any other dining hall, since Frary meal times can be up to an hour longer than other dining halls.
“Some staff are working 120 to 140 hours in a two-week pay period,” Martinez wrote, noting that a typical two-week pay period is 80 hours, but some employees voluntarily work overtime.
“Being forced to close snack due to labor shortage is not [the] best practice,” Martinez wrote. “But staff really appreciate that we make sure they’re not overworked, stressed or put in a situation where safety [is] not considered priority.”
Daniela Nicole Sada PO ’19 said it’s important to acknowledge the long hours that the dining hall staff spend at Pomona to work snack and that working overtime isn’t always feasible.
“Maybe [dining hall staff] have family to tend to, or just had a long day or week and don’t want to stay for several more hours to feed students an extra snack on top of other daily meals,” Sada wrote in a message to TSL. “I imagine that snack is much more time-intensive than most students imagine; there’s the preparation of the snack, the actual snack period, and the cleanup afterward.”
In past years, snack was held from 10:30-11:30 p.m., but shifted a half hour earlier this semester to improve worker conditions.
Pomona Dining Services plans to hire two new cooks this week, according to Martinez. With two new additions to the staff, Martinez hopes to resume snack by Dec. 2.
“We still have a lot of people out, and with the flu season happening, we are experiencing more than usual call outs,” he wrote. “Cancellations would stop if we can get at least half of the staff back that are on medical by this week.”