Written by Whitney Vitt. Media by Taylor Neal.
Are you a student, faculty member, Greenville resident or GC alum? Have you experienced the food in the Dining Commons? You might have noticed the food is provided by Sodexo – founded in 1966 by Pierre Bellon – and Greenville College signed with the company 18 years ago.
Before Sodexo, Greenville College operated the food service themselves. All of the employees worked for the college. At that time, each student used paper cards filled with squares labeled with various dollar amounts such as $2, $1, $0.50, $0.25, $0.10, and $0.05. Students were required to pay for each food item they took. The serving area then was only where the hot food is located today in the DC, which also had drinks, salads, and desserts. There was a long table – where the salad bar is now – with two employees at the end of the table where students lined up once they got their food.
The employees would add each item on the student’s plate up and then punch the holes in the cards for the correct amount. Employees put predetermined serving sizes on plates and bowls and the food was then covered with a clear wrap. There wasn’t a coffee machine, toaster or pizza oven, fountain machine or salad bar. Instead, everything was pre-measured; there were small bowls with lettuce and some carrot pieces, salad dressing in little cups, bowls of cold cereal, yogurt bowls, and each piece of bread was on its own plate with a small piece of butter. If a student wanted a second glass of a drink or anything else, they had to get their punch card out.
Professor Larry Sayler shares, “I was on the team that made the decision to switch to an outside vendor. It did cause disruption, and not everyone was in favor of it. But we managed to significantly increase students’ satisfaction, and also, save the college money. Because of their size and purchasing power, Sodexo can purchase food for less than GC can purchase it. Sodexo uses fewer employees. We don’t have Sodexo employees measuring out bowls of cottage cheese or ice cream, all of that is now self-serve.”
Sayler continued, “Not only do we pay Sodexo less than what it would cost us, Sodexo has taken part of what we have paid them and have improved the facilities. For tray return, in the “old days”, there was a long table headed into the dish room. Students put their trays on the table and pushed them in. Sodexo paid for the motorized turntable and tray return system. They have also periodically paid to redecorate the dining room.”
Sodexo has made many changes in the past 18 years, and they have also made recent improvements. DC worker and Greenville College student Johnny Roa adds, “The DC has made huge improvements in the past year with fresh fruit almost every day, increased focus on student satisfaction, and also opening up more food lines, so there are more options than just the regular main line and grill.” Roa enjoys being able to work with his coworkers at the DC and seeing it improve.
Students at GC can see the changes as well. Junior Mikhaela Romoser states, “Since I’ve been at GC, the DC has implemented a healthy choice option, taco day, a new coffee machine and more cereal dispensers.” Roman Butler adds, “Over the last three years, I have seen many improvements made in the DC. I have noticed more options for cereal and granola, as well as the coffee machine, more Powerade/Gatorade options, along with fresh fruits and vegetables. There are some things I think could use some improvement, but I think the DC has made some good progress. I’m excited to see how they can continue to get better.”
Looking back 18 years ago, the Dining Commons has made major improvements and made it much easier for the students and its visitors. There are still changes they have in store, but next time you are eating at the DC, remember its history and remember how far it has come!