Dining director forums continue

Jake Dalbey

A candidate for the vacant director of ISU Dining position visited campus Friday for interviews and an open forum with students.

The forum, which took place at the Memorial Union, was the second of four for the director position and featured candidate Gayle Hanson.

Hanson, senior food service director for Aramark, a food service supplier for Bradley University, Hamline University and Lock Haven University, emphasized college students’ want for exotic and bold flavors in their dining options.

She said she plans to incorporate these new themes through the use of mobile food trucks serving various cuisines, including Korean barbecue, Chinese, Southeast Asian and Latin. Campus food trucks have become a popular trend across the nation, and universities such as Brown and Columbia enjoy Belgian waffle and vegan ice cream mobile options.

“Food trucks are a popular option among students today; they can add mobility and flexibility to campus dining options,” Hanson said.

Like candidate Amanda Steiner, Hanson mentioned the importance of having more options that would add convenience to a busy student’s life. This includes enhanced mobile and online ordering, centrally-located food kiosks from which students could place orders for a dining center and menu-friendly website integration.

“The question is can we provide a better customer service experience and get the food to customers through giving more payment power to them?” Hanson said.

Hanson said nut and gluten allergies, along with health-based food choices such as veganism, have the tendency to make students feel alienated and limited. She plans to fix this common issue by providing opportunities for students of all religions and limitations.

“We need to provide peace of mind for those who have needs, so they can walk away and think how great it was that we took care of them,” Hanson said. “Food is a way to bring communities together, it’s part of our daily lives, and inclusion of all people leads to a strong program.”

Issues brought forward during the Q&A included dealing with labor unions, strategic planning for machine repair and collaboration between ISU Dining workers and the campus community.

Speaking on behalf of the ISU meal plan system, something Hanson said she believes can never be perfect and needs to be under constant monitoring, she compared student value shopping at Aldi and Wal-Mart with the need for a meal plan value.

Hanson suggested implementing a way for staff to be able to talk with students and create transparency about dining operations as well as meal plan value, so students can stretch their dollar as much as possible.

Hanson ended her speech with a response to the recent struggles of the ISU Dining program as a whole and the financial responsibilities that come with a large university.

“When compared with my competition, I don’t have as much experience with large budgets, but you just have to break it all down,” Hanson said. “Managing a $1 million in a checkbook is really no different that dealing with say $1,000 in my checkbook, it’s just on a bigger scale.”

Dining director open forums will resume with Mohamed Ali, who will speak at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Memorial Union.