Drop in usage prompts changes in staff dining

Photo+courtesy+calvin.edu

Photo courtesy calvin.edu

For more than 20 years, Calvin Dining Services has provided a separate lunch line for faculty and staff in the staff dining room. However, starting in October, Dining Services will no longer provide food specifically for the dining room.

According to Sally Vander Ploeg, vice president of administration and finance, the staff dining room is “a space where [faculty and staff] go to have quiet conversation, or when they’re hosting someone else, to bring them for lunch.”

In the past, staff could purchase food in the dining room at a discounted rate, and certain dining staff were assigned to the room. However, for the last few years the dining room has been operating at a loss of $35,000 per year.

In response to this loss, the facilities task force of the Planning and Priorities Committee surveyed faculty and staff about their use of the dining room.

“A pretty big percentage of people seemed to think it was not worth the money,” said Vander Ploeg.

Only 15 percent of the over 500 respondents used the room more than twice a week, and more than half only used it a few times per semester.

“Use of the room at lunch has diminished over the years,” said Richard Balfour, director of dining services. “The community and culture have evolved.”

Balfour said that as cafes have opened up in the Spoelhof, Fieldhouse and DeVos buildings, staff have been more likely to eat in the venues nearest to their offices or in their own department break rooms.

“Break rooms have been expanded and updated,” he said, adding that staff seem to be taking “less and less time” to eat lunch.

The staff dining room will still be available during lunch hours for staff to use. However, they will need to either bring their own food or bring it from the Commons Dining Hall.

“We still wanted to provide a location for that without losing the money,” said Vander Ploeg.

Staff have had mixed responses to the change in food provision for the staff dining room. According to Vander Ploeg, “There are some people who are regular users who are very sad to see that go.”

“It was a great place for a small number of people that would use it frequently,” said kinesiology professor Brian Bolt.

Other staff members are less disappointed regarding the change. “I don’t find it a great loss, but it did facilitate inter-department interaction,” said religion professor Kenneth Pomykala.

Aside from the dining room, Pomykala added, there is no other place where Calvin faculty can mingle.

“We don’t have a faculty club, which is common at other universities,” he said. “There is really no place off-campus you can go.”

Vander Ploeg hopes that without food available in the staff dining room, faculty will venture into the dining halls and build connections there.

“One benefit of this,” she said, “is that we do like to encourage faculty and staff to eat with the students.”