Grand Valley State University’s College Food Committee (UFC) first met on Friday, October 29, 2021. The committee, made up of students and faculty, was formed to identify issues and find solutions to on-campus catering issues.
The UFC meeting was held at the Kirkhof Center and covered several of the most pressing issues regarding GVSU campus dining options. These topics include the shortage of student employees, school closures due to these shortages, and coping with dietary restrictions and preferences.
Student Senate Vice President of Diversity Affairs Kyle Gineman is one of the UFC co-chairs, as are Vice President, Student Affairs and Dean of Students Aaron Haight. Haight said the first meeting focused on developing a goal for the committee this year and was closed to the public.
“We shared last year’s Senate proposal because this committee is the result of the Senate’s request for more involvement,” Haight said. “Then we just spent a little bit of time thinking and thinking about what we want to talk about this year.”
Gineman said he expected the shortage of campus dining workers to be the most dominant topic.
“This is an issue that many people have brought to the attention of the Senate and it is an issue that will be very exciting for many people,” Gineman said.
A lesser-known consequence of the on-campus catering problem is the way in which resident assistant students are paid for their work. One of the main benefits for RAs is the included meal plan, but many RAs find it nearly impossible to use their plans due to closures and long lines at restaurants on campus.
“There are so many closed places on campus, so maybe a refund is needed because part of an RA’s salary is the free meal plan and the dollars for meals,” Gineman said.
Using a group activity, the committee identified three main themes to be addressed in future meetings. Each member wrote down a topic they would like to focus on and put a sticky note on the wall for other members to see. After each member placed their notes, the three most popular topics were chosen. Staff shortage was the first theme, but the other two are equally important, Haight said.
“We talked about access to food,” Haight said. “This topic revolved around food security and insecurity, like how we can make sure students have food and what it looks like.”
Due to the closure of many restaurants on campus, long lines plague other open restaurants. Students who don’t have time to queue to eat find it difficult to find time to eat in their already busy schedules. While some living centers allow students access to refrigerators to store their own food, most do not.
“The third area was about options,” Haight said. “What options are available if you have specific dietary needs, or cultural or religious needs? What options are available depending on your location on campus, for example if you are downtown.
GVSU’s lack of accommodations for dietary restrictions has been a common point of complaint among students in past years. Gineman said the UFC is aware of the comments and is making it a priority to find ways for campus restaurants to offer more variety in vegan, vegetarian and allergy-free options.
Haight said future UFC meetings should cover who the university is contracting out food service to and how to find new ways for students to have their feedback heard about meals on campus.
Meeting minutes and the dates of future UFC meetings can be viewed online at www.gvsu.edu/studentaffairs/university-food-committee-52.htm.