Free donuts were all that was needed to attract students to the Little Theater for an open conversation with Dean of Students Melba Latu on Thursday, Feb. 1. The event, advertised by the BYU-Hawaii Student Advisory Council as “Donuts with the Dean,” was an opportunity for students to express their concerns about issues they were having with their meal plans.
Latu started the session, “I’ll tell you why this topic came up. I receive so many complaints and concerns about meal plans and people being unhappy about it for different reasons.” She explained how she received an anonymous complaint about a cockroach running across the milk dispenser at the Caf.
Once she received the email, she sent it to Food Services Director David Keala in the evening, and first thing in the morning he had responded to it by sending someone to sanitize the area. Latu added, “Now we all understand that here in Hawaii cockroaches are very common, and we can’t totally keep our spaces clean from them.”
Latu said the Student Advisory Council has been receiving concerns about meal plans and that her purpose for the session was to hear what every student had to say about it. “We want to make sure that students are getting the services that you need and if you are dissatisfied with something, come bring your concerns here and we’ll work with a solution.”
Some students expressed their gratitude and appreciation for the Caf service and staff, particularly those who were part of the I-WORK program. One student said she was especially grateful for the late open hours because it’s useful for students who work in the Night Show at PCC.
Though compliments were given, there were also a handful of concerns brought up, one of which was healthy food options.
Thomas Richards, a freshman from Virginia majoring in biology, who is a vegetarian and said he appreciated the salad options and the vegetarian plates. “I know that I will always have something to eat.” He suggested making the vegetarian menu of the day displayed outside of the cafeteria - along with a list of the ingredients on every meal - so people can see it when they walk in when he walks in. “I really like knowing what I have in my food and what I am eating.”
Richards also suggested the Caf add a larger variety of greens and fruits like kale and spinach, apples, oranges, and even the cocktail fruit can. He said these options would make a major difference in the salad bar and allow students to have more fruit and greens introduced in their everyday meals.
Gabriela Porras, a senior student majoring in business management from Colorado, said the meal plans are too expensive. “I save a lot of money living off campus.”
When she was required to have a meal plan, Porras felt like she was spending too much money because she didn’t each “that much food.” She said, “The result was that I was only visiting the cafeteria once or maybe twice a day and I was paying for three times a day. I was spending a lot more than I do now, and while it is good to have balanced meals - and the cafeteria does provide that - I think I am able to do that at a cheaper cost for myself off campus.”
Richards also talked about food waste during the session. He shared how recently, both of the designated trash cans for food waste happened to both be full because the trade collecting system for plates was down. “What hurts me most is that a lot of it was whole wasted food, like a few bites taken out of it and thrown away.” He suggested starting a campaign for reducing food waste, and that the BYUH S.W.A.T.T. team could contribute to making some good use of the food waste as they do now for PCC.
Collin Farar, a member of the Student Advisory Council, said the cafeteria “got lots of really good feedback.” A junior from North Carolina majoring in political science, Farar explained what the next step after hearing from students was: “We spend the time organizing all the different suggestions complaints, and we summarize all of those in a manageable list of suggestions and then basically make a proposal presentation.”
Students who want to send any comments and concerns should email SAC at firstname.lastname@example.org. Farar added, “There’s also our social media. We have a Facebook page and an Instagram page, and you can message us there.”