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The Scarlet & Black

Dining Hall reaches greatest staffing shortage in recent years

Students and Dining Hall staff help prepare the main dish for the Stir Fry station. John Brady.
Students and Dining Hall staff help prepare the main dish for the Stir Fry station. John Brady.

As may be evident by the number of posters soliciting employment, the Marketplace Dining Hall is currently understaffed—what is not immediately apparent, however, is that this is the greatest staffing shortage that the Dining Hall has experienced in recent years.

“Sometimes when we open the doors, we’ve had no students working at the Honor G Grill or no students at the sauté station. And that’s when you start seeing us in places, doing what we can just to get by,” said Jeanette Moser, Associate Director of Dining Services.

In addition to the four to five students who typically miss work shifts during any given time slot, some shifts are often only staffed by 10 to 11 students. This number is especially troubling given that student staff numbers in the Dining Hall are traditionally higher in the fall than in the spring. The current shortage has made it so that Dining Services staff often fills in for student worker positions in order to keep the stations running, thus making their jobs significantly more difficult.

“We know that the Stir Fry Station wants to be opened. We want it open. We make sacrifices and changes for certain parts of D-Hall to be open. But it’s difficult right now,” said Billy Gilbreaith, Dining Hall Supervisor.

The recent hiring of local high school students has somewhat alleviated the problem, as has the fact that workers who are also athletes have begun to pick up more shifts now that the fall season for several sports is over. However, the greater question of why there is a shortage still remains unanswered.

Angelica Gil ’17, who has been working in Dining Services since the beginning of the school year, believes that the Dining Hall is currently understaffed because students are busy with school this time of the year. However, given the situation at the same time of year in the past, timing is unlikely to be the sole factor behind the shortage.

“I’ve asked myself: Is it because there are more jobs on campus? Or is it because students don’t have to work as much this year? Maybe they took out an extra loan or received more financial aid,” said Dick Williams, Director of Dining Services.

Even though working in Dining Services requires more hands-on work than several other on-campus jobs, there are several incentives to the work. Student workers receive a free meal that is not deducted from their meal plan, there is a merit-based appreciation program and, perhaps most importantly, workers gain several skills that are beneficial for the future.

“Students can learn how to clean, how to produce food, time management skills and what it takes to work in the real world,” Moser said.

The understaffing problem in the Dining Hall had led to a temporary end to stir fry offerings. However, the College has currently reopened one part of the Stir Fry Station and visitors to the Dining Hall can now choose a bulk-prepared stir-fry dish during most meal times.

Traditionally, the Stir Fry Station not only includes the prepared bulk dish, but also offers students to pick out fresh vegetables to be cooked in front of them for a personalized meal, similar to the breakfast “Eggs to Order” station. Until the staffing issue is resolved, however, it is unlikely that Stir Fry will be made fully operational.

Aiming to attract more student workers, Dining Services is considering increasing the wages for certain shifts. However, any such plan would have to be in accordance with the overall Dining Hall staffing budget and is unlikely to be put into immediate effect.

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