For better or for Brooks, what’s up with Aramark?

As a sophomore who has only ever experienced post-COVID Parkhurst’s sad final attempts, I survived freshman year on stories from upperclassmen that prior to COVID the food on campus had been pretty good. The idea was that maybe because Link was new and due to the supply chain problem, there were many reasons for the food not tasting great. What those issues do not excuse is food not being up to health standards, or cooking and serving stations not being sanitary, which is something students thought to be the cause of their sick bellies after dinner at Brooks via Parkhurst.
Last year, the food at Brooks was renowned for being inedible. It looked and smelled unappetizing. The meat was usually tough, uncooked and always unseasoned. The options for vegan and vegetarian students were pitiful, aside from side dishes and the trusty “Green Fork Station,” where one might find bug-infested, unwashed raw veggies and the same vanilla yogurt every single day. I myself would avoid eating there, as I know many other students would. Constantly, I would overhear students talking about the poor food quality and the lack of variety in the food rotations week-to-week.
I was hopeful when I heard news that Allegheny was getting a new food caterer, but it’s been hard for me to get a good sense of Aramark. Last year, I remember hearing a rumor that they were known for catering for prisons. A simple Google search proved this fact true. It is also true that Aramark has faced hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawsuits for unsafe, unsanitary conditions, and for causing thousands of unionized prison workers to lose their jobs.
I personally think that the food tastes a lot better this year and is presented better at Brooks compared to last year. However, there’s still a lot to be desired in terms of variety and making sure that there’s enough options for everyone. I’ve heard from multiple students that they miss things like the omelettes and the stir fry — RIP first-years who don’t understand — which provided pretty viable options for breakfast or dinner and allowed students to customize their meal how they’d prefer.
I wouldn’t call myself a picky eater by any means. I do eat meat but lean towards vegetable-based meals most of the time. I, like many others, like having different spices, flavors and textures in my diet, as well as foods from all of the food groups to ensure that I’m getting a good balance of everything that I need to be healthy and feel my best. I think there should definitely be more vegan and vegetarian entree options, for there are limited ways to get enough protein through only raw vegetables and side dishes.
Consider the implications of pork on a diverse campus of people for how often it’s being served. I thought you were an ethical company, Aramark. How can you not expect people to get sick of the same thing every single day when they’re used to having a mixture of things in their routine? I do not think that the constant supply of tater tots and hummus are sufficing. We want better soups! We want parmesan at the pizza station! We want hand sanitizer! Is it that hard to keep it filled? What happened to fostering a clean and sanitary environment for students to dine in? We shouldn’t have to hunt for stocked napkin holders and salt and pepper shakers.
I posted on Yik Yak: “Do u guys ever do loops around brooks and can’t find anything remotely appealing or appetizing?? I feel so stupid when I go back up the steps not having eaten, wasting a swipe, still hungry.”
The post received forty seven up-votes in about seven hours or so.
There are students who have too many meal swipes to count saved up, all going to waste when they can’t find anything fit for what they need or want. Students should not be leaving the dining hall of all places hungry under any circumstances.
Every day on Yik Yak I see people claiming that the food has made them seriously ill, or that they are sick of the same things being served over and over every single day. For example, breakfast at Brooks has been the same eggs, potatoes, sausage and pancakes every single day since the first week of school. You can’t “spice up” the same skillet potatoes over and over and call it something magical every day. We beg for fried eggs.
When Wednesday rolls around and our Get Apps fill with cash, we have access to McKinley’s and the markets. I myself have never been the biggest fan of the Kin’s dining style. I worked at a mall all throughout high school, and the food-court vibes give me flashbacks to dark times. Last year, Parkhurst salads made me sick on a number of occasions, and my stomach simply cannot handle fried food all that well, so I can’t rely on the fry station to get me through. And what’s up with the overwhelming amount of sushi? Listen, I grew up in western Pennsylvania my whole life, and you are definitely able to get some moderately good fresh fish here at certain times of the year, but I wonder about the quality of the fish and how long it will last. I like sushi as much as the next person, but I know it is also sort of an acquired taste, so I wonder how those who do not particularly like raw fish are doing while it is often the only thing that is regularly available.
I noticed that it was not until more recently that the markets have had fresh fruit and vegetables on the shelves, rather than the majority of options being pre packaged ready-to-eat goods or microwavable meals and chips. Nothing is wrong with these options for college students, I just wish that they aligned more closely with what Allegheny students might want. Fruits, vegetables and sushi are also priced really high. I can’t believe the $5 container of grapes, when they hoard bins of them in Brooks. Bring back the Keurig, and give Pine Market a better microwave. Screw the Jimmy Deans, bring back the homemade breakfast sandwiches. What’s up with all of the hypoallergenic cookies? These things are definitely a necessity to have, but I think a lot of us would appreciate some chips ahoy’s or something.
Aramark’s dietitian for Allegheny, Nicole Dann-Payne, is available by email if you have any questions or need accommodations for food restrictions. Her email is [email protected] It’s her job to ensure that students are able to make healthy decisions and eat well. Please remember that her job is that of a dietician mostly working on special requests, and not someone who actually makes the agreements on what menu items are available to the majority of students.