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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

New dining provider serves up outrage

The+debut+of+Simons+Market+has+been+largely+overshadowed+by+widespread+complaints+about+the+new+dining+provider.
Photo by Emma Sylvester for The Lafayette
The debut of Simon’s Market has been largely overshadowed by widespread complaints about the new dining provider.

In June, Lafayette ended its contract with Bon Appétit in favor of a new dining provider: Parkhurst Dining. Despite the addition of a new dining option, the switch has been widely panned, with students and staff alike criticizing meal swipe restrictions, lack of variety, unreliable menus, long lines and limited accommodations for those with dietary restrictions.

Much of the outcry has stemmed from changes to meal swipe options. Early in the week, Gilbert’s Cafe and Lower Farinon offered a combined 13 meal swipe choices, which is significantly fewer than the quantity of meal swipe options available last year. Many of the pre-made options at places like Simon’s, Lower Farinon and Eco-Cafe can only be purchased with Pard Dollars. The college provides students with 50 Pard Dollars, which are even with the value of cash, per semester.

Commenting on a recent Instagram post from the Lafayette College account, Abby Schlotterbeck ‘24 expressed frustrations about the situation. The comment received almost 100 likes, with Schlotterbeck calling out the “lack of communication from the college, especially President Hurd.”

“I think the best thing that [the college] can do is go back to the original method of meal swipes for all of the made-to-order food,” Schlotterbeck said. “I really think it’s outrageous that we have to use fifty allotted dollars from the school to buy meals on a daily basis rather than using the meal plan that we’re all paying for.”

Students have similarly called out a purported lack of dietary restriction accommodations. Rebekah Lazar ‘26, a student with Celiac disease, has avoided the dining halls and has had to spend money off campus due to poor communication.

“I was at Marquis on Saturday and I got yelled at by someone in the back,” Lazar said. “Then [dining staff] comes out to talk to me … and he basically says I can’t get an answer about the gluten-free section.”

Lazar empathized with many other students who were facing similar problems.

“I’m still lucky that I have the privilege of having a car and my parents can pay for my groceries, but if I didn’t … I would be starving in my dorm and I would have transferred,” Lazar said. “When I get sick, I’m out for weeks and months. So I’m not able to eat at the dining halls because it’s not a risk that I can take.”

Along with a lack of gluten-free options, other alleged issues have been compiled by students in a drafted petition, with plans to send it to Parkhurst in the coming weeks. The petition, which has already been sent to the Student Government, lists complaints about fewer produce and vegetable options, little to no halal options, lack of vegetarian options and little transparency with allergy awareness.

Gilbert’s and Lower Farinon have often been empty, and the mobile ordering system that the two dining locations rely upon crashed two days in a row. Lines at Upper Farinon and Marquis have wrapped around the interior of the buildings during busy hours of the day.

Students have also offered grievances about a lack of food variety and the administration’s allegedly poor communication. While different items such as pretzel buns, french onion soup and potatoes were supposed to be served on different days at Upper according to the posted schedule, Upper has largely stuck to a routine of hamburgers since it opened in the summer.

The new 24/7 grab-and-go Simon’s Market has also triggered mixed student reactions.

“I think it’s nice that it’s open 24/7 because nothing else is really like that here, so we always have food available now … I appreciate the location of it,” Charlotte Farrelly ’26, a resident of Easton Hall, said. 

Despite what some consider to be a convenient location, students have expressed frustration with the new Walk Out technology.

“The idea is very cool. The issue is that … they can’t keep track of what you’re getting. My friends have gone in [and] gotten charged for stuff they just picked up and put back down,” Crystal Yeung ’26, a resident of Fisher East said. “Sometimes … they don’t get charged for anything at all.”

The prices of the items available in Simon’s have also drawn the ire of students. Single pats of butter, for example, were listed for sale at 75 cents, while other items common at grocery stores were listed at double the typical retail price. The vast majority of the items available in Simon’s could only be purchased with Pard Dollars.

“I heard the prices are really expensive, and it seems like a slap in the face when they take away options at Lower,” Tasha Cengel ’26 said. “Why would they take away food options but then make it really expensive?”

Students packed the Leopard’s Lair on Thursday for a Student Government hearing addressing dining concerns. (Photo by Emma Sylvester for The Lafayette)

The administration defended the new dining service, noting that the college and dining staff have been working together to better the student experience.

“I want everyone to give us a bit of courtesy in this, as we’re still rolling out some things a bit. What I’ve been hearing is that food quality is much better, and we’ve made some improvements to the dining experience so that there are more options for students to eat,” Vice President of Finance and Administration Audra Kahr said. “We’ve tried to improve our grab-and-go with mobile order; yesterday there was a global outage but that wasn’t any fault of our own.”

Following student input last spring, administrators, namely Kahr, thought a revamped dining experience would be better for the Lafayette community.

“We put together a dining committee with students involved in our testing and feedback. We really vetted the student feedback but thought there were some enhancements that would be beneficial,” Kahr said.

Kahr emphasized that inflation factored into the price of food and items. 

“We can certainly look to have some more meal equivalency options, but I have to get some understanding. Food cost nationally is on the rise. When we purchase from external providers, they have to sell their food at a certain cost. Sometimes that simply does not meet meal equivalency,” Kahr said. “In order for us to provide those options, some of those will have to come off to Pard Dollars. That’s just the nature of inflation.”

On Wednesday, more meal swipe options appeared on the college’s mobile ordering app. Christine Blaha, resident district manager of Parkhurst, emphasized that things would only continue to improve.

“We are only just getting started with meal swipe options in the various venues. To ensure a smooth start to the academic year, we introduced the first set of menu items and plan to expand that in the coming weeks,” Blaha wrote in an email. “Feedback is critical to our success, so please email [email protected], we are always happy to hear from you.” 

Blaha also mentioned that the dining website is supposed to match what actually appears in the halls. 

“All of the menu items are served as indicated and appear at various stations throughout each dining venue. While burgers may appear at the grill, the chicken, potatoes and cauliflower would be available at Inspired Eats, V2, or Spoon & Fork. Supply constraints may cause us to substitute an item but we try our best to limit that,” Blaha added.

Kahr echoed that statement.

“It’s not about us making money, it’s about maximizing the student meal plan,” Kahr said. “We’re gonna continue to make student improvements as we get student feedback.”

Olivia Puzio ’25, the Student Government president, is hoping to serve as a representative of students’ concerns about Parkhurst’s decision-making. Puzio met with college President Nicole Hurd yesterday to discuss some of these issues. At the time of publication, the outcome of this meeting was unknown. There has been no statement released from the president’s office as of publication.

“I’m hopeful that when we voice our concerns, and we tell [the administration], ‘hey, XYZ is not working for us,’ that they’ll be accommodating and they’ll really listen to us,” Puzio said. 

The Student Government hosted a hearing on Thursday afternoon to address student concerns. Well over 100 students attended the meeting and many expressed their displeasure in front of the Student Government and college administrators. Several members of the dining staff were also present. 

Students can look forward to a variety of changes within dining services alongside expanded meal equivalency options. A student Dining Services Committee, which has been inactive since after the COVID-19 pandemic, will be re-formed, according to Kahr. Additionally, digital menus will be posted outside of dining halls to update students in real-time on what is available at the respective locations and Simon’s will expand to having a pick-up station outside the market.

“I just ask for people to give us a little bit of grace,” Kahr said. “We’re not going to get everything right … the first time. It’s going to take a process, a lot of input.”

Parkhurst’s dining contract lasts until 2028.

Jen Parsons ’26 and Jenny Davis ’26 contributed reporting.

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About the Contributors
Andreas Pelekis, Assistant News Editor
Tennis addict.
Selma O’Malley, News Editor
Waiting for someone to write a sitcom about a college newspaper.
Emma Sylvester, Photo Editor

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  • C

    Chicken BoneSep 2, 2023 at 5:52 am

    Let’s be real here, it’s all about the money. Lafayette wants to maximize their dollar, and so does Parkhurst. In return, the students get subpar food at ridiculous prices.
    I think it’s worth mentioning how badly Parkhurst treats their employees as well. They are severely understaffed because they treat their underpaid employees with zero respect. There was a mass exodus of employees in the first few weeks they took over. It’s an awful company to work for.
    This is not “growing pains.” This will continue on campus because Parkhurst will be perpetually understaffed. I don’t see the situation improving anytime soon.

    Reply