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Changes served to food reps program



By Seth Brown     2/22/12 6:00pm

Got a beef with servery food? A formalization of the college food representative job description aims to make students' requests, comments and complaints regarding the serveries more easily heard, as well as help new students deal with their personal dietary restrictions.

The revisions, drafted by Nutrition & Body Image Specialist Maria Tsakalis, will standardize the food rep position across the colleges so that each college has one food rep who has the option of selecting up to two supporting committee members. The revisions will be effective starting in the 2012-13 academic year, according to Tsakalis.

McMurtry College Senator Emily Robinson said Tsakalis contacted her last semester to gather student input on Tsakalis' work formalizing the food rep position. Robinson, a sophomore, said she hopes standardizing the position will help show students from all colleges that the servery chefs are accessible.

"Some colleges had very strong food rep programs; some didn't," Robinson said. "We wanted to make sure every college had that opportunity."

Tsakalis said she was motivated to create a uniform description of the college food rep position after comparing requests for the serveries she heard from students with those heard by Director of Residential Dining Johnny Curet and noticing that many of these were the same.

Tsakalis said that by having one food rep with the same responsibilities at each college, food reps would have more accountability than they do in the current system, under which some colleges have multiple food reps and others combine the position with another, as in the case of Martel College's Food and Laundry Committee.

"I asked, ‘Why not have the food reps have a more substantial role?'" Tsakalis said. "This came about to help implement change and give a voice to students."

Curet said that while the serveries will not be able to fulfill all student requests, they can at least consider them if they know about them.

"[Students] might have a request – such as pizza every night – that we can't afford to have every night, but we can run as a treat every week or every other week," Curet said.

After drafting the description, Tsakalis presented it to the Student Association at its Jan. 30 meeting and asked the college presidents to take it back to their cabinets and discuss it with their students. Tsakalis said that while she hopes the program will be implemented during the college changeovers in the coming weeks, she has yet to speak with the new cohort of college presidents about the new description.

Robinson said she also had Duncan College New Student Representative Chynna Foucek work with Tsakalis on developing the standardized description at the end of last semester. Foucek, a freshman, said that after having to deal with her own food allergy when she first got to Rice, she wanted a system in place that would facilitate new students approaching servery staff about their needs.

"When students come in for O-Week, this will make it easier for [them] to say, ‘I have a food allergy, can you help cater to my needs?'" Foucek said.

Foucek said she thought the new standards, which continue to allow the colleges to determine their own selection processes for the food rep position, create a balance between giving students an equal opportunity to make their voices heard and maintaining college autonomy.

"A lot of people would like to give feedback," Foucek said. "I think a large part of it is the chefs being able to respond and really embracing what the students want."

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