Low quality or lack of communication: Student opinions on St. Kate’s cafeteria food

St. Kate’s food in the dining hall and The Pulse is currently a hot topic on campus. Students have become so concerned about the quality and pricing of the food that St. Kate’s Student Senate recently put together a Food Forum to help improve the food quality and bring more satisfaction to students. This forum was held in a Q&A style during which students asked their questions and expressed their concerns while Sodexo staff gave their answers.

Students also have recommendations as to how to make dining at St. Kate’s a better experience. Opinions on the quality and pricing of food have been mixed. Some think the food quality is standard, and others think there is a lot of room for improvement.

When a student favors something that is already being served in the cafeteria, they ask for it to be served more often by filling out comment cards. In contrast, when a student dislikes something that is being served, they can use those same comment cards as an opportunity to give their feedback.

In this situation, the fish that is served in the cafeteria seems to be something that is liked by students and is a successful option that Sodexo provides for students. Olivia Skyberg ’16 even described the fish as “delicious.”

“The fish that has been served in the cafeteria in the past is really delicious, and I wish that it was served more often. A few things that I would like to see served in the cafeteria include gnocchi, lettuce wrap, chicken pot pie and more spicy options,” Skyberg said.

Another student, Lily Jacobson ’15 is very active and works out 3 to 4 times a week. She enjoys going on the treadmill, doing yoga dancing and meditating. She is also cautious of what she eats since she is not a fan of products containing GMOs or fried foods.

“Overall, I think that Sodexo’s food quality is standard and has room for improvement. One change Sodexo could make is to increase cultural food variety in the cafeteria,” Jacobson said. “Another change that can be made is to create a $5 soup and salad combination.”

Although there is currently a soup and sandwich combination, there is no existing soup and salad combination.

“I think a lot of students would be in favor of this,” Jacobson said. “And lastly, having less fried and starchy foods and more non-GMO options for fruits, vegetables and meat is something Sodexo can be mindful of.”

Abigail Mohammed ’16 is an Exercise Sports Science major who has been eating the food in the cafeteria and The Pulse for three years. She works hard to eat healthy and work out regularly and has very strong opinions about the food that is offered.

“I think the cafeteria food is low quality and not fresh. There is no variety, and it is not put together well. For the quality of this food, the prices are not reasonable at all,” said Mohammed. “As for The Pulse, the food is unhealthy and also has little variety. The cafeteria should have fresher food and also food that is organic. For the prices that we are being charged, I would like to see higher quality food.”

The Sodexo staff is responsible for serving students high quality food, paying attention to what students like and dislike and then making those changes happen. One effort the Sodexo staff made to get students’ opinions was by recently sending out an annual dining services survey.

A few sample questions that were asked in the survey include questions like, “What type of meal plan do you have?” and “How satisfied are you with the food?” This survey was sent out to students on the first week of November and closed on November 19th. It was sent out to students via email and was also available by Qbot at all cashier lines, The Pulse, Market Place and at the Minneapolis campus.

The Sodexo staff hoped to receive 187 returned surveys so that they could receive enough feedback to improve dining services. The total number of surveys returned was 500, which surpasses Sodexo’s goal of receiving adequate feedback.

Theresa Cianni, Retail Operations Manager at Sodexo, believes that one of the reasons why the cafeteria may not be meeting the needs of students is lack of communication from students.

“We are here to listen to student suggestions. If there is something a student really likes or dislikes, they should let us know. We can’t fix what isn’t broke,” Cianni said.

Betsy Ellwanger is the Catering Director for Sodexo and works closely with Cianni behind the scenes to meet students’ needs regarding the food in the cafeteria, The Pulse and the Marketplace. Ellwanger stresses the importance of sharing opinions about the dining hall via comment cards.

“At the entrance of the cafeteria, there are comment cards in which students can fill out and write their opinions,” Ellwanger said. A lot of students write their opinions anonymously, which is understandable, but when they do this it doesn’t give us the opportunity to contact them about their concerns and work with them to create something that will meet their needs.”

If students have concerns or opinions that they would like to express, they can email St. Kate’s Dining Services directly at: diningservices@stkate.edu. Students can also contact Theresa Cianni, Sodexo’s Retail Operations Manager at Theresa.Cianni@Sodexo.com and Betsy Ellwanger, the Catering Director at Elizabeth.ellwanger@sodexo.com.



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