Checking in with student opinions on Harvest Table

In light of the developing conversation surrounding the performance of Harvest Table, the staff at The Redlands Bulldog interviewed several different students about their opinions on the new foodservice provider since the open panel Q&A last month. These were their responses.


“There’s been very few days where I’ve actually used my meal swipe and felt good about it…”


The implementation of the university’s new food service provider, Harvest Table, has raised a great deal of scrutiny within the student community. A plethora of recent complaints has emerged including unsatisfactory meal options, and criticisms over the program’s debit dollar roll-over policy. 


Among the unsatisfied populace is senior, Destiny Ng.


“Overall, I think the food is actually worse than last year. There’s been very few days where I’ve actually used my meal swipe and felt good about it,” Ng said.


Ng is frustrated about her experience with Harvest Table, claiming that some days she swipes in, but decides to walk out without getting food. Much of her annoyance stems from her opinion that “there’s nothing to eat, or there’s no flavor, or there are no good vegetarian options.” This is especially difficult due to the fact that she is a pescatarian, and often struggles to find meal options that fit her dietary needs. She elaborates that even the Plaza Market no longer offers a sufficient assortment of groceries for students to purchase.


Like many other students, Ng is unhappy with Harvest Table’s policy that unused meals do not transfer over from week to week. She was one of the students in attendance at the Harvest Table open panel, held on September 19th. 


“I know they are anticipating us missing meals, which was explicitly said that meeting,” Ng said.


This is something that she finds to be “really offensive,” especially when considering the sacrifices her family has made to provide her the opportunity of attending the U of R. 


It should be noted however that at the open panel, Dean of Student Affairs Donna Eddleman explained that this “missed meal calculation” is the reason meal plans are not a straight calculation of X amount of meal swipes per semester multiplied by the listed price of $13.50 per swipe. Instead, Eddleman said, one swipe is equivalent to about “six dollars and change.”


A similar restriction, is student’s inability to transfer meal swipes over to debit dollars. All meal plans are allotted two-hundred and fifty dollars, which can only be increased by adding additional money via Dining Services. With the high price of drinks at the Bulldog Juice and Java, many students find that this amount quickly runs out. As Ng points out: 


“Having only two-hundred and fifty dollars is kind of really restrictive, especially when it comes to low-income households.”


“The workers are really nice. I have to say that.”


Despite her criticisms of Harvest Table, Ng is still able to see the positive aspects of the situation. She is grateful for the option to choose from multiple food stations, when the lines permit, due to the freedom of the “all-you-care-to-eat” price package. Additionally, she has only positive opinions about the workers. 


“The workers are really nice. I have to say that. They are really, really nice,” Ng said.


While some students have expressed dissatisfaction with Harvest Table’s service, she believes that their irritation is wrongfully accredited. Destiny suggests that issues with the service stem from management’s insufficient training. 


“I think a lot of people do get frustrated with the workers, not realizing that they are not the ones that make the rules, that get to dictate this or that; it comes from their bosses,” Ng said.


 She thinks that this is important to be aware of, and stresses that it needs to be better addressed within the student body.


“If my friends want food but I don’t, then I have to still swipe if I want to go with them…” 


Bella Sturr, a sophomore at the University of Redlands, is a dancer who requires balanced, filling meals to provide sufficient energy for her athletic lifestyle. Sturr cites the operating hours of each on campus eatery as being a major flaw.


“The Commons is only open about two hours at a time, and the Plaza Market closes at 5:00 on weekdays, not to mention it is completely closed on weekends,” Sturr said. 


She views Harvest Table’s performance at Redlands so far as “sub par,” recounting a negative experience with their practice of portion control, in which she was served less than adequately.


“I was getting chicken curry for dinner and only three grains of rice were put on my plate” Sturr said. “I asked for more rice, and the server gave me a couple more grains so I had about a forkful of rice on my plate.”


Her account is exaggerated, but its sentiment is nonetheless shared by many of the students who attended last month’s Q&A.


Although Sturr recognizes that practicing serving size is an important component of healthy eating, she often does not have time to stand in multiple lines for second helpings, and wishes Harvest Table would be “more realistic” with their portions.


However, Sturr most strongly dislikes the entry swipe, as she is no longer able to socialize in the Commons unless she is willing to sacrifice one of her weekly meal swipes.


“If my friends want food but I don’t, then I have to still swipe if I want to go with them,” Sturr said. “What if I swipe and don’t see anything good so I decide to eat at the Plaza? I’ve just wasted a swipe.”


The entry swipe is also causing problems outside of the Commons. Students now line up at the swipe machine, meaning lines spill outside and clog the middle of the courtyard outside Hunsaker, which is supposed to be a gathering place for organizations and clubs to host fundraisers, sell tickets to events, and interact as a part of the campus community. Now, lines dominate the middle during eating hours.


“… maybe the chefs need to go through more training.”


Trisha Somosundarum, a freshman at the University of Redlands, was eager to share her thoughts on the topic. 


When asked about service, Somosundarum answered: 


“I have nothing bad to say about service. I don’t want to bash the workers.” 


In fact, it seemed that most of Somosundarum’s complaints were about the food quality itself. She explained that she is a vegetarian and has vegetarian friends as well, who sometimes have a hard time finding food that is both filling and flavorful. 


“As a vegetarian, like every time I walk around the Commons, it’s usually chicken at every station,” Somosundarum said. 


Somosundarum acknowledged that there are stations like Plant Power for vegans and vegetarians, but felt that as a whole “it’s very easy to see that the vegetarian options are significantly less satisfying [than the meat options].”


She gave suggestions on improvement, with her biggest focus being on the workers. Somosundarum admitted that she felt that “maybe the chefs need to go through more training.” 


Although never harshly critical of Harvest Table, Somosundarum was excited for the chance to express her frustration. 


“I think there’s definitely room for improvement,” Somosundarum said.


“I like it a lot”


Clairece Waite, a first year student majoring in Physics, shares her pleasant experiences with Harvest Table.


Particularly, Waite expresses her satisfaction with the service at the Table. Mentioning instances when food running out is refilled quickly, she comments on the efficiency of the Table’s staff.  


“[The staff] are always on top of what they’re doing,” said Waite. “They’re also nice and polite.”


Waite also likes the all-you-care-to-eat meal plans provided by the Table. Comparing it with the previous system provided by Bon Appetit, Waite notes:


“Last year, you [paid] after every meal you get, and if you didn’t like the food, you can’t go back and get something else.”


But if there’s one thing Waite didn’t like about Harvest Table, it would be the Table’s attempts at food from other cultures. 


“Some of it is kind of bland, cause I don’t think they know how to season it [properly],” Waite said.


Nonetheless, Waite still considers most of the other food “pretty good” and applauds the fact that Harvest Table aims to be “multicultural.”

[hr gap=””]Interviews conducted by Redlands Bulldog staff writers Raven Fallon-Cyr, Olivia Umstead, Chloe Mcquesten, and Quynh Nguyen.