By Caroline Ryan & Dondre Lemon
Editor-in-Chief & Assistant News Editor
The Winnick Student Center is the primary meal provider for students who live on campus. The menu at Winnick consists of an all you can eat buffet style, with an array of food options for students to choose from. This semester, some students have accused the dining hall of being unsanitary. Those claims are vigorously denied by Aramark, the campus food provider. Aramark provided the Pioneer with copies of recent Nassau County Department of Health inspections that refuted the students’ claims.
Ashley Damis, a sophomore broadcasting major who lives on campus, has noticed the center’s unsanitary environment. “When I am waiting to get my food, I notice the debris on the grill, and that’s not from food that just spilled, that’s from food built up for a while. If I couldn’t have a meal plan, I wouldn’t, but it’s mandatory that every student has a meal plan whether we want one or not,” Damis said.
Damis stated that she has stopped eating at Winnick this semester and now spends around $60 a week on food in addition to her resident meal plan. “I usually go to Hillwood for lunch, or to Winnick Express and grab a salad or sandwich and order dinner out,” she said. Damis also goes food shopping, which lasts for a week or two depending on what she purchases. “My mom knows about the issue, but since there is nothing she or I can do, she gives me money to spend on food,” Damis said. Damis has not raised her concerns about the dining hall with school administrators.
Winter Hughes, a freshman musical theatre major who eats at Winnick every day has not found it to be unsanitary. Although she claims that“there are barely any options and the food is tasteless,” she said that it is “fairly clean.” Hughes noted that they always have staff wiping the tables down and sweeping the floors. Yet, she too takes advantage of other dining locations on campus. “I would rather spend all of my dining dollars at the other food areas on campus. I take every opportunity to not eat at Winnick,” Hughes said.
Salina Webson, a senior criminal justice major who resides on campus has been eating regularly at Winnick since her freshman year. On Nov. 17, Webson was eating at Winnick when she drank from a cup with mold floating in the bottom. Webson immediately spoke to a staff member about the mold. “My experience is disappointing because I pay so much for food that is extremely disgusting. When I spoke to staff that was in Winnick at the time regarding the mold, [the woman] seemed surprised; all she said was sorry. If the drink machine had mold developing in it for this long, I’m not sure what else they don’t clean properly,” Webson added.
After finding mold in her cup, Webson decided to take further action and cancel her meal plan. She is still waiting to hear back about whether she will receive a refund. For the remainder of her senior year, Webson plans to eat out, since she works and has an internship off campus. “I don’t think they handled my situation properly considering my health and other students’ [health is at] risk,” Webson said.
“The machine that was in question was cleaned, sanitized [the] nozzle was taken out, all product was discarded. We are not quite sure [what happened], but we erred on the side of caution, we threw everything out.” David Conway, operations director for Aramark, said in response to Webson’s claims about the mold.
Justin Poly, Aramark’s food service director on campus and the former executive chef at Winnick Student Center, provided the Pioneer with the inspection report from the Nassau County Department of Health for Winnick. According to these documents, the latest health inspection occurred on Nov. 20. The inspection found four violations, including a machine observation that showed blocked or clogged airway pipes in the refrigerator, a squeeze tube in a product dispenser was worn and needed to be replaced to improve cleaning, and motor pumps were causing excess noise. There were no violations for unsanitary conditions or cleanliness found.
The university convened a focus group the week before Thanksgiving, with Aramark’s district manager, Michael Berthel, the dean of students, and Ashley John, the director of residence life. They sought feedback from the RA’s about what they hear about Winnick. Poly has not received information regarding the focus group. Some of the topics discussed were tables not being cleaned, lack of food options on the weekend, and chicken not being served from 2-4 p.m.
Students with concerns about Winnick may contact Aramark’s food service director, Justin Poly at Justin.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students may also provide feedback about dining services by visiting YourDiningVoice.com