Stav Hall faces rising food prices, theft

Manager Randy Clay discusses inevitable changes

St. Olaf students enjoy implementing change and improving systems with obvious defects. However, when they find themselves on the receiving end of the change, there tends to be confusion and more than a few rebuttals.

One such event caused a slight uproar in the student population last week: the removal of certain foods in the cafeteria. These cuts have specifically eliminated the Cracklin’ Oat Bran cereal as well as chunky peanut butter. While the disappearance of these foods has exasperated some students, others are more concerned with what this discontinuation says about the college.

“The problem is that we have less students on campus this semester due to the number studying abroad,” said Peter Abrahamson, the St. Olaf Bon Appétit general manager. “In truth, we are actually going through more food than last year with less students.”

In the month of October this year, St. Olaf spent $10,000 more on produce alone than in October 2011. There were 2,678 students on the meal plan last October, and there are only 2,619 this year. However, due to the sizeable first-year class and the number of students abroad, the number of students on a meal plan will increase significantly next semester.

This fact, coupled with rapidly rising food costs, has caused St. Olaf food services to re-evaluate its programs and determine where to cut costs. For example, just one bag of Cracklin’ Oat Bran cereal costs $14. The crunchy peanut butter was one of three choices open to students, costing significantly more per ounce than the natural or regular peanut butters.

Randy Clay, board manager of Bon Appétit, attended the Nov. 13 Student Government Association SGA Senate meeting with some explanations about the proposed implementations.

“Food inflation is a huge problem … and we have to look carefully at everything we purchase so we are not asking students to pay more money … There will be a few things that affect students on a personal level, but we will try to take out more expensive options and leave the cheaper options, where applicable.”

“We want to let you know how we operate,” Clay said, even likening the Senate meeting to a visual comment card board like the one outside Stav Hall.

The SGA Senate meeting opened the door to more discussion about Stav Hall policies this year. For instance, the large first-year class prompted Bon Appétit to keep Stav Hall open until 7:30 p.m., half an hour later than in previous years. Clay explained that this proposition had been circling for a while, but the size of the class was the breaking point. He said the class size alone has not made a huge impact on cost.

Conversations also arose at the Senate meeting about the number of dishes that go missing, particularly coffee cups. In the eight days leading up to Thanksgiving break, Stav Hall lost 240 coffee mugs. Both Clay and Abrahamson clarified that they are not making a correlation between the money for the food changes and the money to replace coffee cups. Both are separate, important issues to consider.

Clay brought the Honor Code into the discussion. According to him, it seems that “a lot of students think the dining hall and food service is separate from the academic experience and the Honor Code doesn’t apply to them in there.”

This topic of discussion leads to questions about why upperclassmen without meal plans sneak into Stav Hall, why some students walk in without their Ole cards or why some ask their friends to get them a meal. Clay’s concern is that the students do not see Bon Appétit as a business that has to enforce rules in order to function.