UMaine Students and Parents Complain About Poor Food Quality in Dining Halls

UMaine Students and Parents Complain About Poor Food Quality in Dining Halls

Students and parents at the University of Maine have been expressing their dissatisfaction with the food quality in the campus dining halls, especially in the Hilltop Commons. They say the food is bland, unhealthy, and sometimes unsafe to eat. They also say the food service does not offer enough variety, options, or accommodations for different diets and preferences. The university leaders say they are aware of the complaints and are working to improve the food quality and service.

The Hilltop Commons is one of the four dining halls on the UMaine campus, and it serves mainly the students who live in the dorms and have meal plans. However, many students and parents say the food quality in the Hilltop Commons is poor and unacceptable. They say the food is often overcooked, undercooked, or spoiled, and that they have found foreign objects, such as hair, plastic, or metal, in their food. They also say the food is not nutritious, tasty, or appealing, and that they have experienced stomach problems, allergies, or infections after eating the food.

Some of the students and parents have shared their complaints and photos of the food on social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, using hashtags like #UMaineFoodFail or #UMaineFoodHorror. They have also contacted the university officials, the food service provider, and the local media, to voice their concerns and demand changes. They say they are paying a lot of money for the meal plans, and they expect better quality and service from the food service.

The Food Service Response and Improvement Plan

The food service at UMaine is provided by Sodexo, a multinational company that operates in more than 70 countries and serves more than 100 million consumers every day. The food service contract between UMaine and Sodexo was signed in 2018 and will expire in 2023. The contract is worth about $12 million per year, and it covers the four dining halls, the catering service, and the retail outlets on campus.

The food service officials say they are aware of the food quality issues and the complaints, and they are taking immediate and long-term actions to address them. They say they have conducted a survey and focus groups with the students, to understand their needs and expectations. They also say they have hired a new executive chef, a new quality assurance manager, and a new registered dietitian, to oversee and improve the food quality, safety, and nutrition. They also say they have increased the training, supervision, and feedback of the food service staff, to ensure they follow the standards and protocols.

The food service officials also say they are working on a food service improvement plan, which will include the following elements:

  • Increasing the variety and the quality of the food options, such as adding more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and plant-based dishes.
  • Offering more choices and accommodations for different diets and preferences, such as gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, halal, kosher, and allergen-free options.
  • Enhancing the presentation and the appeal of the food, such as using more colorful plates, bowls, and utensils, and displaying the food in more attractive and appetizing ways.
  • Improving the communication and the engagement with the students and the parents, such as using more social media, newsletters, and feedback forms, and organizing more events, tastings, and promotions.

The food service officials say they hope the food service improvement plan will be implemented by the fall semester of 2024, and that they will monitor and evaluate the results and the satisfaction of the students and the parents.

The University Leadership Support and Oversight

The university leaders say they support the food service improvement plan and they will provide the necessary resources and oversight to ensure its success. They say they value the feedback and the opinions of the students and the parents, and they want to provide the best food service possible for the campus community. They also say they want to foster a culture of excellence, innovation, and sustainability in the food service, and to align it with the mission and the vision of the university.

The university leaders also say they will review and renegotiate the food service contract with Sodexo, when it expires in 2023, and they will consider other options and alternatives, if needed. They say they will involve the students and the parents in the decision-making process, and they will seek their input and suggestions. They say they will also consult with other stakeholders, such as the faculty, the staff, the alumni, and the local partners, to ensure the food service meets the needs and the expectations of the campus community.