By Jonah Lewis, Deputy News Editor, and Alexandra Momot, SGA reporter
The Towson University Department of Auxiliary Services hosted the first meeting of a student dining council Wednesday allowing students to voice concerns about the performance of Aramark Collegiate Hospitality, the university’s new dining provider.
The creation of the dining council comes after students expressed dissatisfaction with Aramark’s first few weeks as dining vendor.
Jake Smith, the director of Finance, Information Systems and Auxiliary Marketing, said he would like for a core of about 20 to 25 students to meet once a month. These students would report on how to best serve the Towson student body through dining services, according to Smith.
The inaugural meeting saw 10 students in attendance.
The lack of labeling of allergens was among the first issues the students brought up, especially by Gabriella Linsky and Natalie Gimignani. Linsky is vegetarian while Gimignani is gluten-free and lactose intolerant.
“I feel like people with dietary restrictions this year have had a really hard time navigating the dining halls,” Gimignani said.
She said better labeling would go a long way.
Cross-contamination of allergens was also a point of contention for the students, especially Linsky who said she had observed fruit cross-contaminated with gluten, along with utensils used on meat being used for vegetables.
“I do appreciate more of the options, I think it’s just better labeling, because some stuff it’s like, ‘does this have meat in it, does this have gluten in it?’” Linsky said.
In response, Aramark promised greater “menu transparency,” starting in Glen Dining Hall on Oct. 2.
Aramark has also introduced what they call “allergen captains,” distinguished by their purple hats in the dining halls.
Aramark District Manager Richard Coburn told the dining council that six allergen captains had been added to the staff on Tuesday and one more was in training Wednesday.
At the Student Government Association’s General Assembly meeting Tuesday, Coburn said these allergen-trained staff will be in each dining hall to provide adequate support to students with food allergies.
“If you see the purple hats, if you’ve seen those on campus, those are allergen trained team members,” he said. “If you have any allergy concerns or allergy questions, those are the people that you can seek out.”
Additionally, the Tiger Meal menu, which provides pre-selected meals at retail locations around campus, was expanded at all locations on Sept. 11 from “50 options to over 100 options,” Coburn told the SGA.
These changes were direct responses to student feedback, he said.
Students at the dining council meeting responded to the newly-implemented Tiger Meals program positively.
However, they noted a lack of options in the dining halls.
Senior Anthony Garcia was among the most vocal critics of the loss of options compared with last semester.
Garcia proposed a kiosk in the dining halls or some other means for students to vote for their favorite items in the dining hall and keep those on the menu as a fan favorite.
“Variety is great but it can get too much,” Garcia said. “Being able to get a burger or a cheesesteak when you’re aching for it is great.”
Garcia’s critique stems from the loss of the made-to-order grille and the student-dubbed “Chipotle station” at West Village Dining Hall, where students were able to craft their own Mexican dish.
Aramark said it is looking into other made-to-order options, such as all day omelets and pasta.