After two years of using styrofoam and plastic utensils, the MLK Cafeteria is finally returning to plates, cups bowls and metal silverware. However, the change is getting mixed reactions from students and faculty.
After returning from the holiday break, students were met with blue-and-white hard plastic plates, bowls and cups – a change from the disposable containers and utensils that were part of an outdoor food distribution system implemented due to COVID restrictions. Aladdin, the company that runs Saint Augustine’s University’s food service, declined to comment on what prompted the change.
Students are now restricted to using the new reusable plates when dining within the student center. After eating, there is one station on the lower level to clear away any excess food or drink products then place plates in containers for collection.
University staff and faculty are able to obtain styrofoam plates and cups upon entering and paying for their meal. Students must pay $1 per styrofoam product they wish to obtain.
Some members of the SAU community are excited about the transition to more sustainable plates and utensils. Sallie Simpson, the university deacon, says this change will significantly help with the litter issue along with other problems on campus.
“It will be great to walk around without seeing styrofoamplates and cups thrown everywhere,” Ms. Simpson said. “Also, forcing the students to sit and eat can really boost socialization instead of eating alone in their dorms.”
The cafeteria had previously been utilizing an outdoor, grab-and-go system to reduce COVID-19 transmission. Students collected meals from tents and a food truck following the campus’ reopening in Fall 2021 amidst renovations of the student center. Often, students were not allowed to dine under the tents or it was too cold to eat outside, forcing them to eat in their dorms.
In the Spring 2022 semester, the MLK Cafeteria reopened and students were allowed to dine in. However, they were still using styrofoam plates and cups.
Some students say the new system has disadvantages. Because fewer students get take-out food, the cafeteria is more crowded, senior communications major Joi Davidson said. Davidson said she now struggles to find seating in the cafeteria on its most popular day, Fried Chicken Wednesday.
Davidson says she is now sometimes forced to find seating in the upper level of the cafeteria where no food or drink items are served apart from the Falcon’s Nest Grill which is an additional cost.
Others like freshman sports management major ShauneceMiller expressed concerns about the cleanliness of the plates and cups.
“I don’t exactly mind the change, but I don’t think they’re washing them properly because they don’t always look very clean.”
But, while the plates and utensils are getting mixed reviews, they represent one more step to a complete return of the dining hall to conditions before the pandemic.