Concern about on-campus dining is an age-old issue at the University of Miami.
“Dining touches everyone- students, faculty, staff, parents when they visit,” said Ana Alvarez, director of auxiliary services.
At the end of last semester, a new auxiliary services executive director, Sandra Redway, was appointed. Together with the recently inaugurated Student Government executive board, the Department of Dining Services is ready to face the challenge of satisfying its clientele.
“We have determined the need to develop a master plan for dining options on the Coral Gables campus and that entails not only the dining halls but also retail. So, a task force was formed,” Redway said. “It was critical that we got representation from undergraduate, graduate, law, on-campus and off-campus students.”
Following meetings with several students, Redway and Alvarez have developed a communicative approach to addressing dining worries.
“We are trying to increase the source of communication that we have with students,” said senior Kesem Omer, chair of the Dining Services Advisory Board. “We really want to convey to students what is out there.”
The first part of dining services’ plan, the Balanced U initiative, which was already implemented, involves placing flyers in the dining halls that inform students on how to eat healthy. Also, there is currently educational information about dining hall food online.
“By August, we will have nutritional information for all dining hall and retail food services online,” Redway said. “We will also have an interactive aspect of that too.”
The program also identifies food options in the dining halls with one of four labels: balanced, which are foods balanced in nutrients and size, sustainable, options that contain a sustainable ingredient such as local produce or sustainable seafood, vegetarian or vegan.
In addition to the Balanced U project, dining services administered a dining survey this semester to 3,800 members of the UM community. With a 40 percent response rate of those who received the survey, Redway and Alvarez are ready to digest and analyze the results.
“People were satisfied, but there are certain needs and questions on variety and selection, hours of operation, getting the best bang for your dining dollar buck,” Redway said. “The next step is town hall meetings to get specifics.”
Redway and Alvarez plan on hosting these town hall-style meetings with students and other members of the UM community in the residential colleges this month before everyone leaves.
The future of dining will be a result of auxiliary services’ master plan combined with the new SG’s platforms, which include the addition of an on-campus dessert option, late-night food outlet and take-out dining.
“People have wanted it for years,” said junior Brandon Mitchell, newly elected SG president. “Coming from someone who lives on campus, if it’s midnight, I have nowhere to go except to get a bag of chips from the C-Store. And we want students to have options.”
Alexa Lopez may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.