Students call for Gwinn changes, Chef responds

Students raise dietary and quantity concerns about Gwinn’s selection

Kyle Morrison, News Editor

Gwinn employee serves a small portion of food into the compostable box for students to take to-go. (Jacky Chen)

Many students on campus are not getting satisfactory nutritional value from the SPU dining hall. Gwinn Commons has limited their selection at the start of this quarter to simple servings and vegetarian options. This has raised some concerns amongst students and their parents regarding dietary restrictions and variety.

“I can barely eat any of the breakfast, other than like oatmeal and bacon,” stated first year Savannah McGowan, who is lactose intolerant. “It is really difficult, because if I don’t want to have what they are serving at Gwinn, I can’t just go and pick up the to go things, because every single one of those items except for the fruit has dairy in it.”

For students with multiple allergies, finding items that address dietary needs, while also satisfying one’s caloric necessity can be a major challenge.

“I have both a dairy and gluten allergy, so finding something that doesn’t have dairy in it and doesn’t have gluten in it is very difficult,” first year Shianne Heeraman explained. “A lot of the deserts I can’t have, a lot of the soups I can’t have, a lot of the time vegetables are cooked in butter so I can’t have those.”

Heeraman went on to explain that sometimes she has gone through certain meals eating nothing but a fruit cup from the Simply To-Go section.

Although Gwinn supplies a vegetarian option with every meal, many students who choose to not eat meat have struggled to satisfy all their dietary needs.

“It’s hard when you are vegetarian or vegan to get your omega 3’s and you have to get very specific things to get that vital nutrient,” first year Autumn Reinmuth explained. “There’s nothing in the cafeteria that’s giving me that nutrient.”

Alvin Dau, an engineering sophomore and part-time Gwinn worker, serves an allergy-friendly meal to-go during a rainy Saturday dinner. (Jacky Chen)

Gwinn has been asked to almost completely change its standard operating procedures. Self serve dining has become impossible because of its risk for viral transmission. They’ve had to go full takeout, they’ve had to cut their budget in a response to shrinking room and board revenue, and their production lines have been disrupted by the economic fallout from COVID-19 as well as the many wildfires that continue to plague the western United States.

Despite all this adversity Chef Chris Studtmann believes his operation can improve and wants students to know that they can reach out to him with any complaints or issues they may have.

“I like to be as quick as possible in responding to someone, because if someone is lactose [intolerant] at breakfast, that means we are missing an entire meal,” Studtmann explained. “Student feedback drives evolution, student feedback drives and challenges the team to have a better program moving forward.”

Students across campus have expressed frustration with communication between Dining Services and the student body. Studtmann wants students to know that if worst comes to worst, he encourages students to find him in Gwinn and present the issues they have been going through.

Gwinn’s limited selection has been an issue for students whether they have dietary restrictions or not. With only one station available, if someone does not find the meal selection appetizing, they have no other options in the dining hall.

CHA RA, Kiana Kahusi, makes small conversation with the Gwinn server while she gets her meal. (Jacky Chen)

“There’s such a limited amount of options and they are all very strange,” first year Grace Peterson said. “I came to this school expecting pizza, that they’d have cereal at breakfast, they have yogurt, they have vegetables, fruits, and meats, and all these things I knew I could eat, so it was really exciting, and I get here and it’s like couscous everyday.”

Chef Studtmann acknowledged the lack of variety over the first few weeks of the term. He explained that with the new COVID protocols, dining services had to prove they could serve meals in a socially distant environment, so they made all the stations the same in an effort to avoid crowds.

“Everything we did prior to walking in this fall was concerned about the safety of the guests and the safety of the team.” Studtmann explained. “We had to look at streamline processes and open up the school year not knowing how many people were coming in.”

The fourth week of the quarter will be a big week for dining services and a cause for celebration for many students on campus.

“We are starting next week, to make the step towards how we ran things last year a little more.” Studtmann explained. “There are certain things as far as food safety requirements, whether it is nationally, whether it’s what we agreed to with the university we can’t do… but what we are going to do is start adding on station by station and see how that impact is to the service and speed for people.”

Studtmann says his team is focused on bringing grill options back first, then pizza soon after. Diversified selection will help many people with dietary needs. However Studtmann knows there is more work to be done, and he hopes that as many COVID limitations come down, he will be able to fully answer all those concerns.

“It was actually prior to when COVID hit, I was working with a team to create new recipes to keep enhancing our plant based dining offer, we’ve also worked on creating different levels of breakfast things that meet the allergen free and a lot of other things, but until we are able to open more stations we can’t add them all in, but there’s a lot of innovation we are ready to run,” Studtmann said.