BY JUSTINA ZIEGLER
Pima Community College students are wondering what is going on with their food services, or lack thereof, at the Northwest, Downtown and East campuses.
Before this semester began, those campus cafeterias closed because Follet wasn’t making enough of a profit in the cafeterias to cover their staffing costs.
Micah Paul Sherman, student senate representative at the Downtown Campus, said this should have been addressed before the semester started.
“The students were caught off guard when Follet closed the cafeterias; the administration and faculty seemed to be, too,” Sherman said.
David Doré, president of Pima’s Downtown and Northwest campuses, agreed that the closure should have been handled differently.
“The timing from the campus standpoint was disappointing,” Doré said. “I don’t know what the communication issue was, whether it was with Follett, or with the administration. We didn’t get the opportunity to tell students in advance.”
Doré also said that the old model of food service was not satisfactory to students.
Follett is planning to invest $675,000 in rebuilding a bookstore/cafe hybrid with the Pima administration, and offered some rough blueprints and potential ideas to Pima in a recent presentation. Follett has two plans so far for each campus: Plan A and Plan B.
However, two months later, there are still students and faculty with access only to the snacks sold in their bookstores or vending machines. A large number of them can’t leave campus to find food elsewhere either due to time constraints or lack of transportation.
“We still need an entity here to serve us food,” Sherman said. “We expected that when we paid to study here. According to Pima’s Section V Code of Conduct/Discipline, which is posted on the Pima website, basic student needs and rights are supposed to be met. Our needs are being met to a certain extent and they shouldn’t be. They should be met. Period. ”
Alyssa Barrientez, Follet store manager at the Downtown Campus bookstore, said that next month Follet and the college would have more information about what they plan to do.
“It’s a slow process,” Barrientez said. “Any plans have to go through district first.”
Barrientez said they are trying to see what fits in each campus situation.
Jennifer Schowengerdt, program manager for finance, said there were open forums happening college-wide to gather input from students about what they would like as far as food services and items for the bookstore March 6-8.
Showengerdt said there is a survey open regarding food services until March 31. It can be accessed online at www.surverymonkey.com/r/PimaCampusCom32018.
“There is also an ongoing link on the back of receipts from the bookstores looking for opinions and comments relating not just to this, but to the bookstore in general,” Showengerdt said. “I am also putting together a student-panel to help go over the results we receive. Anyone who is interested is welcome to come speak to me.”
Francisca Hernandez, instructional faculty for the Department of Social Sciences, said the snacks currently offered are things like pre-packaged crackers and junk food.
“The current food situation is not good,” Hernandez said. “It really isn’t food. I’m grateful the staff are kind and indulge my decaf coffee, but this is not acceptable. We need fresh food that is accessible all day. It really is a reflection of the economic crisis the college is in. I hope they come up with a resolution for students.”
Doré said that he hears two main complaints from the student body regarding the available food options.
“More healthy choices have been requested by students, and cost is another big element,” Doré said. “Students are on tight financial budgets and are sensitive to cost.”
Daniel Soza, acting assistant chancellor for finance, said the administration and Follett have worked hard to take the feedback they receive and make improvements for the students.
“At the East Campus, we received feedback saying that the healthy choices offered were very limited and salads would be great to have,” Soza said. “Fresh fruit was made available the next day, and later that week Follett found a vendor for salads. That was a response to the feedback we heard. Even with our limited space, we are making an effort to swap out or bring in items requested.”
Soza said the food items that are available in the bookstores are the items that had the highest purchase rates.
Sherman has multiple ideas on what could be done that reflects the needs of the student body.
“I want to share the truth of how the students feel,” Sherman said. “I want to be their voice and make sure they are all heard.”
One idea Sherman brought up is to bring back the food trucks, at least temporarily, until the college finds a solution.
Barrientez said the problem with the food trucks is that when it was tried last time, students weren’t buying enough food from them.
Sherman believes enough students support the food truck idea to warrant a discussion of it in the next meeting. He said a survey of which food trucks are most preferred at each campus would help prevent the profit loss that was a problem before.
Kristi Freeland Dutton, a Downtown Campus student in the paralegal program, supports the food truck idea. She was one of many students that contacted Sherman about the lack of food provided on campus.
“We get so hungry between PAR 101 and 102,” Freeland Dutton said. “We’re all trying to snack quietly.”
Freeland Dutton asked Sherman for the food truck program to be brought back to the Downtown Campus.
“I’d really like Serial Grillers and Bubba’s BBQ every week,” Freeland Dutton said. “I’m just tired of being hungry.”
Doré agreed with Barreintez that there are potential problems with bringing back the food trucks.
“The challenge with food trucks being brought on campus is that they need a guaranteed minimum amount of money made to operate,” Doré said. “It’s a hit or miss if they will. If students don’t purchase enough from them, then the college has to cover the cost. There is also generally not a lot of variety offered in individual food trucks.”
Essentially, the college does not want to pay for food trucks to be on-site for students, then pay for those students not using it. They want to be sure what they decide on is what students want and that it will be cost-efficient.
Another idea Sherman has is that student clubs could sell food for fundraising purposes.
“It would benefit the students in many ways,” Sherman said. “Student engagement. It would bring faculty, advisers, students together and bring everyone closer. Students would have a food option.”
Sherman said as far as the financial aspect goes, it can be done fairly for all involved.
“It could be a micro-market,” Sherman said. “The students raise money for their clubs, and donate a percentage of their sales back to the college.”
Doré has a similar idea that potentially could be incorporated in the long term.
“We could have our culinary program more involved in providing food to our college campuses,” Doré said. “The program is based at Desert Vista, which is the only campus running its own kitchen. They could make and package grab-and-go food for other campuses. It is already a requirement in our contract with Follett for them to purchase a certain amount from the culinary program. This way it incorporates a more educational, student-involved approach.”
Doré, Soza and Schowengerdt said they want to encourage students to take part on the online survey and give their opinions and feedback to help Follett and the administration not just decide on a short-term plan, but a long-term one. They want to have consistent service at all campuses, and advocate quality products that meet student needs.
On March 9, Pima has a conference that students are welcome to attend and speak at. It takes place at the ballroom in the Doubletree Hotel, 445 S. Alvernon Way. At 7:15 a.m., there will be breakfast and registration, while the conference itself is 8 to 11 a.m.
Sherman said not many students show up to these forums and conferences considering how many attend Pima.
He said he hopes students take advantage of the chance to be a part of these meetings with Follett and Pima administrators so their input can be taken into consideration.
“This is an opportunity for students to be heard, to say how they feel with no repercussions,” Sherman said. “There is power in numbers, and their voices together have the power to make changes that put their needs first.”
Soza said the administration and Follett are working hard to resolve this situation and meet student needs.
“Be a bit patient,” Soza said. “Know that the college partnership with Follet’s goal is to meet the needs of the students in a comprehensive and affordable way. It takes time for the feedback from students to be evaluated, potential plans to be offered by Follett, those plans to be approved and the proper permits to be obtained to construct what best fits the student needs.”
Doré said once the feedback has been evaluated and potential plans are formed, the information they receive from Follett will go through student senate and be funneled to the student body through them.
After the student survey closes in March, they hope to have Follett’s response in April.
Soza said they hope to have long-term plans in effect for the fall semester, but is not certain they will be able to.
“Ideally, we want it finished by fall,” Soza said. “But we have to work in the time constraints given to us through obtaining necessary permits, logistics and construction. We want to be as expedient as possible without shortchanging the input we receive.”
By April 13, Follett said that the Facilities project manager will have approved of Follett’s plans, and the remodeling will begin summer semester of 2018, providing all deadlines have been met.
Doré has one request for Pima students.
“Speak up, please fill out the survey,” he said. “The more students that participate, the more they can shape the food services at Pima. Here is an opportunity to shape the future. We want to hear new, creative ideas, different from the past, anything students can think of for the bookstore/cafe.
“We are going to hold Follett accountable to respond to the needs of the students.”
The above photos are courtesy of Pima Community College David Doré.
They are Plan A blueprint ideas for each campus. Fillet presented these to the PCC administration recently. They are only ideas meant to be worked with the feedback from students and faculty.