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The Yellow Jacket

2024 RMC Dining Services Town Hall Meeting

2024+RMC+Dining+Services+Town+Hall+Meeting

The RMC Dining Services town hall meeting marks the yearly meeting of the dining services at Randolph-Macon College. Currently, the service role is filled by Parkhurst as of 2022 when RMC replaced Chartwells Dining with Parkhurst. The RMC town hall meeting was held on January 25th at 3:00pm.

The town hall meeting was held to discuss the Parkhurst dining services and their plan for the spring semester. However, the discussion mostly consisted of concerns about Parkhurst as students and parents talked about the lack of food quality, cases of food poisoning, dirty dishes, the lack of food accessibility for those with restrictions, time conflicts with student athletes, and students feeling that their voices are not being heard by the dining service.

During the town hall meeting, Blair Bowles, Executive chef with Parkhurst disputed the food poisoning claim stating that no one has gotten sick from the food he had prepared. This was repeated by another Parkhurst official who said they have not had any reports of food poisoning. They called on people to report food poisoning cases to dining services, resident assistants, or the RMC Student Health Center so they can be aware of any sickness from food.

During the meeting, a group of Randolph-Macon students were encouraging the audience to fill out a survey. I made it available electronically via Scribd:

https://www.scribd.com/document/701684689/Estes-Survey-1

https://www.scribd.com/document/701685111/Estes-Survey-2

https://www.scribd.com/document/701685400/Estes-Survey-3

https://www.scribd.com/document/701685798/Estes-Survey-4

The student poll claims to survey 276 students, faculty, and staff members and exhibits a distrust and discontent with the Estes dining hall. The poll most notably claims that “67% of the surveyors do not believe that Parkhurst complies with basic health and safety rules”, “87.7% of surveyors have been an experience with raw meat served by Parkhurst” and “83.3% of R-MC affiliates are not satisfied with the quality of food at Estes dinning hall.” The poll also makes the claim that “a manager and chef were quoted saying that the students here “are just spoiled rotten and can’t handle a little pink in their meat” in response to routinely raw, undercooked chicken and as a “solution” employees were told to purposefully burn meat to prove a point.” The survey also makes aware the claims of multiple food poisoning cases, uncooked, spoiled, and rotten food, dirty silverware, cups, and plates as well as the lack of “common health and safety practices.”

The following are large snips from a speech made by Dean Azdell at the end of the town hall meeting. He said that he and his staff eat there every day and that he has “watched the folks come in and deliver our food.” Also, he has asked the faculty, staff, and his staff what they are seeing, and he has come to the staff personally and said this is not ok, this needs to be fixed and he says they are very respective to it. “They try to fix what is wrong out there when it happens” stated Dean Azdell. “They are very genuine people, I have not found a person in this group who have said “you know what forget it” or “I am not going to help you,” it’s just not in their nature and not in their best interest because they are on contract to provide this service to us as a third party and that contact can be changed.”

He then talked about how they connected with Parkhurst and said the decision was “because they are a smaller operation not like a Mariott or Esso or somewhere big. We wanted a family owned business that was going to care about what they are doing. So, we got these folks who actually do care.” Dean Azdell would commemorate them for working “this year especially some really difficult staffing problems” as “paying people to staff this operation and paying them enough that they want to work here is really tough.” Dean Azdell stated that if there is a problem he wants feedback of specific cases of discontent with the dining services and to give it to him when he is “walking around here at lunch” or by email. Also, he stated that he understands that need for quality food and eating at the same place three times a day for ten months is hard, so “we got to do better, and I hear that from the staff. It’s not like we are not talking.”

Dean Azdell talked about changes in Estes that will happen in the summer. “The chefs are going be cooking in front of the students” in the area up front where the trays are, and they are getting new ovens. A Parkhurst official also said explained that they are building a staff-run allergen zone to upgrade the self-service allergen zone in place now. The official said they have been organizing the construction plans for about a year.

The Parkhurst employees exclaimed that they are trying to rebuild trust that was lost by the students and are trying to be more consistent with the quality of food and cleanliness. They said they plan to find ways to make students feel like their voices are being heard. They are planning on hosting another dining service discussion in six weeks in order to show students their progression to that goal. Still, at least some students and parents were skeptical of Parkhurst’s promises for change. We hope to see improvement in dining options moving forward and the students certainly made their voice heard!

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Spencer Vida, Opinions Editor
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