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Commons Comments: Is dining services up to par?


Staff Writer

On Nov. 24th, 2014 a health inspection report revealed that a cockroach had been sighted in the soda dispenser box room of Commons, following other sightings and several other health violations for the past five years.

“No matter how much attention you give to cleanliness, the reality is that with over 400 employees and deliveries five days a week, pests can find their way in,” Director of Salisbury University Dining Services Owen Rosten said.

This particular cockroach sighting was, actually, the third time one had been reported in Commons during those last five years. Before November, a cockroach had been spotted in the chop shop on both February 11 and February 23, 2011.

In the past three health inspections that Commons underwent, the university was out of compliance with both their hot and cold holding temperatures, as well. This has been an off and on issue for the past five years.

To be out of compliance, hot food has to drop below 135 degrees and cold food has to rise above 41 degrees. If food gets into this danger zone for too long, it risks becoming spoiled.

In the November 24th health inspection report, spaghetti had dropped all the way to 110 degrees, putting it temporarily at risk. Corrective action was taken in order to prevent any spoilage.

Despite these violations, Rosten said that staff members check food temperatures on a regular basis. If food gets into the danger zone, it is taken back into the kitchen to be reheated or chilled before the food goes bad.

“All of the good things that we do can be destroyed by a food borne illness, so this is a priority for us,” he said.

Rosten has only been in the position for about a month, so he was not around when these issues occurred.

Prior to taking the director position, Rosten worked at many other universities such as John Hopkins University and Frostburg State University, and he talks very highly of SU’s custodial services in comparison.

“Custodial services do an outstanding job, way above the average I’ve seen,” Rosten said. “And I’ve been directly connected to dozens of campuses during my career.”

Besides the issues presented in the health inspection reports, students also have some complaints about Commons’ service in general.

Many students have complained about their dishware and silverware not being completely clean.

“We put all the dishes through a giant dishwasher,” freshman commons worker Caleb Graham said. “It usually gets all of it, but not always. If anyone notices, they’ll run it through a few more times for good measure.”

Freshman Julia Groene said she has an issue with the potatoes at Plato’s Plate; “The baked potatoes are almost never cooked fully,” she said.

Although students have plenty of complaints, there are many aspects of Commons that they enjoy.

“I like that Commons can be utilized with a meal plan, so whenever I am broke or do not feel like making something I can just go and eat as much as I want,” senior Jade Lebrock said.

Prices vary from $450 a semester for 30 meals to $2,235 a semester for unlimited access, with many different options in-between.

“I like that Commons has many different categories of food for people with different preferences,” junior Ryan Daniher said.

In commons, there are a multitude of different kiosks for different food tastes such as Fiesta Express for students or guests with a taste for Mexican food, or Plato’s Plate for vegetarians and vegans.

Dietician Kate Cerulli is one of the people responsible for coming up with all of the meals that will be served at these different kiosks.

“We try to have a little bit of everything out there to keep everyone happy,” she said.

Cerulli also said that they include plenty of healthy options in order to assist students in making the right choices for their health, but she acknowledges that it is ultimately the student’s decision.

Students and guests eating at Commons who are trying to eat healthy should be mindful of labels. For example, steamed vegetables are healthier than their seasoned counterparts because they have not had anything added to them.

Cerulli encourages students to give their feedback in order to help Commons improve. The most effective way to do this is by going to F.O.O.D. Committee meetings every other Wednesday at 5 p.m. in the Caroline room. The only requirement for participation is having a meal plan. These meetings give students the chance to present their ideas directly to Rosten, Cerulli and many other people involved in the food selection process.

Students that are unable to attend these meetings can submit an online comment card or talk to one of the managers directly.

Despite the cockroach sighting in the most recent health inspection report, Rosten does not want students to lose hope in SU’s largest dining service.

“One bug gets out on social media and changes the public’s perception on the whole program,” he said, “The university has been very diligent to have a regular pest inspection every Monday.”

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