Walking into Hubbard & Cravens, a coffee shop in Bookmarket Eatery under Herman B Wells Library, a lone employee worked on coffee orders. He spoke with the customers, made multiple drink orders and dished them out to waiting students.
Handing his shift over to the next employee, the student worker looked at the stack of orders needing to be made. She sighed and began working.
Many students are attempting to purchase meals from IU dining halls but are experiencing long wait times or abandoning buying food from IU altogether. To add, IU welcomed the largest freshman class in its history.
A petition was started asking IU to fix its dining services to better serve students, claiming they have encountered food shortages, long wait times, closed restaurants and low-quality food.
IU freshman Brendan Bondy frequently walks to Wright Quad’s dining hall to grab food and said he has encountered all of the same frustrations.
“Every time I've been in there, it's been super busy,” Bondy said. “I can actually see sometimes probably 50-plus orders sitting on their tables ready to be given out to people.”
When he has used the Grubhub app specifically to order from Erbert and Gerbert’s, Bondy said there have been wait times upward of three hours.
On top of wait times, he said the food has not met expectations, making him question the quality of what he is eating. When ordering from a restaurant in Wright, he said he once received chicken that either had too much fat or was undercooked.
“In general, I would say the food choices and quality, for such a large university, have been pretty poor just compared to what I was expecting coming in,” Bondy said.
IU senior Jessie Wang, IU catering assistant manager, said they see this issue from both the perspective of a student and an employee for IU dining. Wang said their opinions are not on behalf of IU dining.
“The problem is that we don't have enough people to provide that amount of demand,” Wang said.
In the catering department, they said the team dedicated to serving food at events has dropped from around 100 people in the past years to less than 10. Wang said they, along with two other staff members, have been the majority of employees setting up and tearing down events. They said their managers are working 70 to 80 hours a week.
Since last spring semester, Wang said the workload has increased but wages have continued to be mostly the same for students.
“The wages that they pay us and the amount of work that we are expected to do is very different,” Wang said. “I don’t think it’s a very fair wage.”
Although catering is a distinct section of IU Dining, they said a lot of what is happening in their department can be seen happening with those working in the Indiana Memorial Union and residence halls.
Many restaurants are facing a similar issue: being short-staffed and lacking enough employees to properly serve the student body and feed students on-campus.
Wang said they hope those frustrated work toward solutions rather than shifting blame.
“As someone who really cares about food issues, food justice, food security and food equality on campus and throughout Bloomington, I believe that people, no matter if they have money or not, should be able to eat,” Wang said.
When asked for comment, IU Dining directed the IDS to attend a webinar, “A Conversation with IU Dining,” addressing people’s concerns about the dining system. The event will be at 4 p.m. Tuesday on Zoom.
In addition to the petition, IU parent Facebook pages are also expressing their frustrations about how their students are struggling to eat on campus.
Since many have purchased a meal plan, parents express their frustration at students not being able to use what they paid for. Parents said on Facebook their students are turning to outside restaurants and buying frozen meals at Target.
Dana Scott, mother of an IU freshman, said her daughter has ordered multiple times on the Grubhub app and found the wait to usually be over two hours.
“I am not one of those parents that does not let my kid figure things out on her own, but this is beyond frustrating,” Scott said. “I don’t feel that I should have to pay $1900 for meals if she’s not eating on campus.”
She said other parents on Facebook said their students sometimes go with only one meal a day.
“I don’t want any more excuses,” Scott said. “If IU’s not willing to provide the food or be able to take care of these students, then I want a refund.”