by Hannah Langley ’21
Over the past couple years, Raymond Dining Hall has gone through several developments, renovations, and remodels. Recently, however, students have become more and more aware of certain areas in which the dining hall is lacking in, such as food quality and choices. This spring semester, the dining hall services are working to ensure that the incidents and complaints of the past will not be repeated.
In November 2019, a Providence College student eating at Ray found a parasitic worm in their cod fish. Shortly after this incident, the College addressed it in an email, stating, “The fish contained a roundworm known as a nematode… While there are no health issues related to the ingestion of the serving in question (the student did not eat the fish), we are eliminating cod from the menu going forward…”
Several other incidents regarding food quality and sanitation were later reported. As stated in a petition called “Boycott Raymond Dining Hall,” “In the past 2 weeks, a parasitic worm, 2 bugs, and shards of glass were found in various foods in Raymond Dining Hall at Providence College,” as documented in photographs and videos.
“My roommates and I decided to create the petition after events in Ray that had happened in the weeks prior to its creation,” said Collin Malloy ’22, one of the creators of the petition. The petition received over 3,000 supporters and prompted a forum where students addressed their concerns to Sodexo employees.
To address these recent concerns, the College and Sodexo have taken several steps to try and improve the dining experience for PC students at Ray. Josef Quirinale, general manager of Raymond Dining Hall, discussed many of the changes recently implemented to hopefully create a better overall experience for the PC community. Malloy and Quirinale both stated how the two largest concerns students had were the quality of the food and the transparency between the students and staff about concerns and suggestions.
While Quirinale said they have not changed where they get their food from, he assured that the product they buy is of high quality and produce is cleaned several times. In light of recent concerns, however, Quirinale has talked to the companies, making sure the product sent to them is handled properly and checked for any quality concerns. Ray employees have also been told to check their product even more carefully to avoid future incidents.
Quirinale stated that while they are able to fix many factors, such as food options, other things are out of their control due to the age of the facility. “The problem is this is a pretty dated facility,” stated Quirinale, which has made it difficult to keep up with the standard of service most PC students are used to outside of school.
Quirinale has taken many steps, however, to try and improve the dining experience at Ray for PC students. “We redesigned the stations so more of what we do is ‘just in time,’” said Quirinale, “which creates a better, fresher tasting product.” He stated that many students think there is a difference between the food at Alumni and Ray, but the only difference, he said, is that the food at Alumni is made to order rather than premade, which makes for a better product.
To fix this, one of the major changes Ray has made is at the grill, where burgers are now made to order rather than ahead of time and left under a heating lamp. The chicken, rather than being at the grill, is now found at the salad bar, where it is pre-cooked and sliced for convenience. Quirinale said that the way they cook the chicken has been changed so that it makes it fresher and more enjoyable to eat in a variety of ways. He thinks the students have noticed the difference, as well. On average, Quirinale said, the dining hall used to go through about 90 pounds of chicken per day. On the first Monday of the new semester, they went through 240 pounds, a noticeable difference.
One of the changes Quirinale was most excited about was the expansion of the u-cook station. He said he noticed the popularity of the station last semester, and decided to add three more burners so that students did not have to wait as long. Along with the addition of burners, brown rice was added with the white rice and a larger refrigerated station will be coming in the next several weeks to add more options to the current station.
Some of the other changes have included an additional made-to-order station where pizza used to be every day, breakfast until 11 a.m. every day, and with the additions of a daily omelet bar until 10:30 a.m. and smoothie bar until 10 a.m. More vegetarian and vegan protein options have also been added to the vegan station, as well as an updated pizza menu, and waffles available all day.
Students with unlimited, 15-meal, and 11-meal plans will also have an additional amount of Friar Bucks added to their account by the College in order to “give more students flexibility in dining options,” as stated in an email sent by the school on Jan. 11.
Quirinale also stated that a complete renovation of Ray is in the process, as they have begun looking at other colleges to see how they are set up, prepare their food, and function to make it more up-to-date. “There is a whole new way of producing food now than when this building was built,” said Quirinale.
Above anything else, Quirinale encourages students to voice their concerns to himself or other Ray employees. “We’re here to serve, but we can’t serve unless we know what students want,” said Quirinale. “I want students to come forward and say this is what I’d like to see,” he said, “and if a student comes to us, we can take care of it for them, and then we can go to our supplier to ask why that happened and stop it from happening again.”
While it is still early in the year to see whether or not the changes at Ray have made an impact on students, the employees at Sodexo are working hard to implement changes that will create a better overall experience for PC students.