Recent University budget cuts have the cafeteria facing a serious financial and labor crisis. Cutbacks have caused reduced hours, the elimination of hot breakfast, and problems meeting catering obligations.
Many departments on campus have also experienced budgets cuts due to the declaration of financial exigency of the college, but the cafeteria’s losses have been severe. Since the start of the fiscal year they have lost $100,000 in funding, five part time staff, the cafeteria van and their discretionary fund.
These losses come on top of earlier position cuts, which eliminated FWSP positions, the Assistant Dining Services Manager Greg Frederick and Office Manager Anne Thomasson, and the elimination of the Grab-and-Go lunch program.
The budget reduction has caused a noticeable drop in the quantity of food. People that do not attend meals are subsiding those that do attend. According to Marvin Bohn, Manager of Dining Services, if everyone with a meal plan attended the same meal, the cafeteria would not be able to feed them.
At this time last year, the cafeteria was staffed by over a dozen hourly workers and three management-level employees. Since then, nine of these positions have been eliminated, leaving one manager and seven hourly workers. While the total number of students has dropped slightly, the proportion of students attending meals has remained constant.
Staff cuts have mandated the end of hot breakfast on most weekdays and the occasional lack of staffing at the register. Bohn has been working twelve-hour-days, seven days a week, and has to accommodate staff taking vacation days or calling in sick with no backup.
Less staff members also means less outside jobs for the cafeteria. Last year, the cafeteria increased its budget by offering catering services for various local events, which has not been possible with the staff reductions, furthering the budget problem. The cuts have also limited the existing staff’s ability to attend to some cleaning chores. “The areas used daily like the stoves are just as clean, but other areas like the loading dock and the walk-in floors are being neglected,” said Bohn.
He has had to hire temps at various points and plans to hire temps for the weekend of the Board of Trustees meeting. “Due to being understaffed I have to rely more on outside help than ever before. That cost is being passed on to groups that hold events at Antioch,” he said. The Board of Trustees meeting coincides with the annual Peak Oil Conference, for which the cafeteria provides catering. Additionally, the Board of Trustees receives the 10 percent discount given to University functions.
While the loss of the cafeteria van could seem minor, it can cause major problems. The lack of a designated van has meant that the cafeteria has had to eliminate all off-campus catering commitments, further lowering this year’s revenue compared to previous years.
Similarly, the loss of the discretionary fund has caused problems. One important use of the discretionary fund is buying unexpectedly unavailable ingredients for meals, as meal schedules generally cannot be changed on short notice. Without it, Bohn has found himself with situations such as this last Monday night, when he had hot dogs on the menu, but no hot dog buns due to an incomplete delivery. Students ate their hot dogs on sandwich bread instead.
Both Bohn and his employees agree that the biggest hurdle for the cafeteria has been the lack of staff. “Right now… we could use a little more help,” said Virginia Garrette, UE Local 767 representative. She noted that the cafeteria has previously had FWSP employees, but lost those during the FWSP reorganization last spring. “If we could get some FWSP students just to help in the dish room that would ease up some of the stress that the Caf workers are feeling.”
Bohn feels that there has been some misunderstanding about what the cafeteria can feasibly do with the resources it has been provided. “The rest of the campus has experienced cuts and the same has happened here, which effects the end consumer – the student. That is not how I wanted this job to progress.”
Natalie Martin contributed writing help to this story.