Student Senate Hosts Dining Services Forum

Lianna Brown ’22, Associate News Editor

Director of Dining Services Errol Huffman gave a broad presentation at the April 9 Student Senate meeting on Dining Services and answered questions about dining’s waste management, sustainability standards and staff training.

“We’re trying to satisfy the palettes of all individuals as much as we possibly can,” said Huffman. 

He explained Dickinson’s standards for food preparation and sourcing for produce, emphasizing the college’s sustainability initiatives, like their Green Restaurant Certification and standards for fresh fish. Huffman spoke about Dining Service’s efforts to respond to student feedback, citing sustainable changes in packaging, the introduction of the pasta bar and flavored water.

Students expressed their want of more diverse options for vegan and vegetarians, and Huffman said budget was one obstacle in improvements. Huffman said he had requested funding for a Net Nutrition program – an interface to suggest meals based on available options and to explain calories, nutritional value and allergen information – but “that’s not been approved by Planning and Budget [Committee] to date.” 

“When it comes to you guys [the students], that’s the most important thing,” said Huffman, “but we still have to maintain a budget.” Dining Services operates with $15 million a year, according to Huffman. $12.5 million comes from meal plans and the remainder from non-student catering events and summer conferences. 

Staffing has been tight this year too, said Huffman. “Staffing just can’t stretch anymore,” he said in response to a question about extending the Juice Box hours, and that “quite frankly we’ve had some shortages in staffing,” citing Cumberland County’s low unemployment rate. 

As for cramped space in the Dining Hall during peak hours, “We’re trying to think through for opportunities for periods for taking over side rooms or… the social hall,” said Huffman, though he said these were just tentative ideas.

Huffman also said he was looking into the Flex Points program: “What I can say is we’re taking a look next year… something I call an enhancement to the [pricing].”

Huffman further explained that Dining Service’s operations would be expanded in the Dining Hall renovations slated for the coming decade. He said in the meantime, Dining Services is exploring offshoot projects like partnerships with the food studies programs or biology department for a hydroponic garden.    

Huffman also spoke about his meeting with Danielle Paz ’21, a student who put together a petition in late Mach to improve Dickinson’s dining options, and how she is working with Huffman and the Student Senate Food Advisory Committee to modify various dining hall features like lighting, background music and improving food labels.

Huffman’s presentation was followed by studen questions.

“I think that my question was addressed,” said Rose Lang Zalph ’21, who asked about vegetarian options. “I think I am going to follow up with an email, like outlining exactly what I was saying within my questions because… I really want to make sure that he was really able to know what I’m saying. I think he did answer the questions in a really human way, like he wasn’t trying to paint a picture of a false representation of Dining Services and he definitely tried to answer them to the best of his ability, which I appreciate the transparency in that.” 

Jasmine Jia ’22 said Huffman answered her questions and that “We are looking forward [to] future improvement in dining services.” Jia asked Huffman a question about how to connect students with chefs, to which Huffman responded that he would work to make the chefs more available to students. 

The Dining Services Open Forum was held on Tuesday, April 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the Social Hall.