USM students protest university's food service

USM students protest university's food service

HATTIESBURG, MS - University of Southern Mississippi students are protesting the dining services at the school's cafeteria.

Junior Carmine Harrell made a blog post titled Listen Up, Eagle Dining on Monday.

The blog calls attention to the campus dining experience.

"It's just an issue that I've felt very strong about for the past three years," Harrell said. "Here a lot of people talk about it and I know it's a strong issue among students."

Harrell's blog sparked a petition that received almost a thousand signatures in just three days. Each signature takes a stand against the university's food service Aramark Corporation.

The petition asks the university to reassess its contractual relationships with Aramark Corporation.

"My main concern and the bulk of what I woke about in the article actually was just concerning the hours and the prices of the meal plans versus what we're getting," Harrell said.

The Mississippi Food Company, also known as "The Fresh" is open 7 a.m. - 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. on Friday, and 9 a.m.- 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Students said this leaves them with limited options or finding food off campus.

"For students that don't have transportation and they don't have bonus bucks if the dining hall loses at 8 p.m.  we're basically hungry for the rest of the night," Freshman Darius Johnson said.

Some student said they were not fond of the food options and the food quality.

"They have the little tags that they hang above the food in the cafeteria," Sophomore Sloan Garner said. "Sometimes it doesn't even say the ingredients, it says the wrong thing. It will say mash potatoes when it's something else. I generally like to know what I'm eating before I put it in my body."

While other students said after spending thousands of dollars on the university's meal plan, they find themselves paying for food out of pocket off campus due to the cafeteria's hours of operation.

"I'm a theater major and theater rehearsals get out late so when you're finished with rehearsals and ready to go eat dinner you have to go off campus to spend your money when you're already spending money on the meal plans," Freshman P.J. Townsend said.

USM's chief Communication Officer Jim Call said Aramark representatives have already had a productive meeting with Harrell and has also engaged representatives from the Student Government Association who will continue to serve as an ongoing voice for students in this matter.

"I think if they took our feedback and really looked at the situation now that it is in such a big spotlight there's a lot they could do to fix and appease the students with this issue," Harrell said.

Harrell said he hopes the university will consider extending dining hours and keep an open link of communication with students.