After the discovery of cardboard in a student’s meals at the Oliver Dining Hall, many question whether the food they were putting into their bodies provided by Saint Mary’s is, in fact, sanitary
By Kamryn Sobel
On September 14th, a student received a meal at Oliver Hall during the dinner time hours and came across a small object, that of which was not food. This item was found to be a piece of cardboard, presumably from the packaging the food was delivered in. Executive Chef Gabe Kinney describes that “food is delivered in many different styles of containers. They may be plastic, paper, cardboard, or a combination of them.” In response to this finding, the Executive Chef refunded the meal for the student, however, many question the food that they are putting into their bodies provided by the school.
The surrounding students at the time of the discovery noted the situation as “alarming” and “concerning.” Sophomore Gaby Silva, witness, described the event as, “shocking. I didn’t expect something other than food to be found in a meal here, especially by my roommate. I think it’s concerning that the safety and sanitation of our food are, seemingly, not being looked at closely enough.”
Although the pandemic shut down a fully functioning dining hall during the 2020-21 school year, this year it has opened to the entire school community with COVID-19 protocols, in hopes to keep not only those dining at the hall safe but to ensure the food is as sanitary as possible. Following the Contra Costa Health Services guidelines, all who enter the building are to wear face masks unless eating or drinking, and all employees are to remain masked at all times. However, with having the kitchen running to its full capacity once again, even if there may be restrictions, the question of food sanitation still lingers.
In relation to these protocols, on the Saint Mary’s website, it states that “Sodexo food services, the contracted food service provider for Saint Mary’s, is partnering with College personnel to develop and modify existing dining services and facilities. Meal plans will be adjusted to best serve student needs. Dining facilities will be modified to promote physical distancing and ‘grab & go’ options will be increased.”
In an interview with the Executive Chef on the precautions taken in terms of sanitation and how the food is handled, Kinney states that “Sodexo uses an interactive Food Safety Management program to ensure products are handled in a safe manner from the time they arrive in the kitchen until [the meal] is served. This program consists of several food safety walk-throughs and audits, that are done on a regular frequent basis,” said Kinney. “We also use several different sanitizing agents to reduce and minimize the amount of bacteria on food production equipment and surfaces. Sodexo uses antimicrobial soap as well as hand sanitizing stations within the kitchen and disposable gloves to help ensure cross-contamination is minimized.”
As seen by all who enter the kitchen, there are multiple employees distributing food to students on a daily basis. “Generally, someone, or possibly two individuals, put the food away in the proper refrigerator, freezer, or dry store-room. Another staff member will pull out the proper predesignated amounts to produce a scaled recipe. That same person may serve the item that was prepared or they could have an assistant serving with them,” said Kinney. “There are also the many different business pieces such as packers, warehouse workers, drivers, and delivery personnel that come into contact with food items.”
At this time, both the contracted food service provider, Sodexo, and Saint Mary’s have implemented numerous strategies to ensure that the safety and sanitation of the supplied food is a top priority.
Melanie Moyer '22,