Observing and cracking down

University dining to take measures to prevent students from taking food


Photo by Anna Mateffy

Story by Meghan Hosely, Copy Editor

Over the past month, employees at Riverview Cafe have encountered people taking whole pizzas, multiple bananas and even putting cottage cheese in a to go coffee cup. Due to instances like these, employees have had to pay extra attention to what is going out of the cafeteria doors.

Christian Wise, general manager and executive chef of Blugold Dining said employees of the cafeteria on upper campus have been observant of students’ actions and have explained to students why they shouldn’t take food out of the building.

Unless students are eating the food on the way out of the cafeteria or have one item of food in their hands, it’s considered stealing, a dining representative of Murray Hall said at the hall council meeting.

Freshman Sara Balkowski said the measures the dining hall has taken in the past few weeks are both appropriate and intense.

“I think it’s like half and half,” she said. “I think we should be able to bring a couple stuff (out of the cafeteria), but people are taking a lot more than they need to.”

Wise said students stealing food has always been a problem, but some years it is more prevalent than others. The percentage of people who have mandatory meal plans this year is down three percent, but the food intake is up 15 percent.

“We still have a healthy amount of … dinnerware that’s going out the door,” Wise said. “But what is really apparent is that we have an excessive amount of food that’s going out the doors.”

The staff of Hilltop has not been successful with communicating to students why they should not take food out of the cafeteria, so the dining office has taken the next step. Within the last week, the university police have had an active presence in the cafeteria during dinnertime, according to Chief David Sprick.

“We try to … prevent illegal activity by having a presence and encourage people to abide by the law,” Sprick said.

While it’s too early to tell if the police have been effective in stopping students from stealing, Sprick and Wise both said it was effective in the past.

Sophomore Andrew Truman said while he thinks stealing shouldn’t happen in the first place, the university might have gone too far.

“It does seem like an extreme measure to bring the police into the caf for stealing food,” Truman said.

Since the staff at the caf has been trying to catch students taking food, students have reacted negatively toward the people catching them. Wise said students write complaints on complaint cards posted in the cafeteria and on popular social media websites such as Yik Yak and the UW-Eau Claire Confessions Facebook page. However, people do not complain to the dining office in Davies Center.

“I know everyone wants to complain about it,” Wise said. “And they want to complain about the expense.”

Wise calculated the most popular meal plan, the upper campus meal plan, into how much students pay per meal if they ate three meals a day every day during the semester. Students essentially pay for a buffet-style meal for $4.60.

Pizza Ranch, a popular pizza buffet in Eau Claire, has the cheapest buffet price in town. Their lunch prices for a single adult is $9.99.

Throughout each of the resident halls on campus, dining representatives come from their hall council weekly to discuss issues with campus dining.

Freshman Katherine Kocen, a Murray Hall dining representative said the committee has discussed stealing in the cafeteria for the past two to three meetings.

Kocen said while no one has complained to her about the policy, she has talked to people about why they shouldn’t take from the cafeteria.

“I know I’ve told a lot of people … ‘well you’re not allowed to do that,’” she said. “I tell them to not take more than what they’re eating.”

Wise said while giving students consequences for stealing isn’t in the top ten perks of his job, it is a necessary thing for him to do to create the best environment in dining.

“All I want to do is feed people the best possible food we possibly can feed them and create the best possible environment to eat food in that we can,” Wise said. “That’s all I want to do.”