Pork sausages, turkey tacos and baked chicken returned to Blackhawk Commons’ entrée line Monday after the campus dining hall eliminated its Meatless Mondays program due to unpopularity among customers.
According to University Dining’s now-defunct Meatless Mondays website, Blackhawk implemented the student-proposed Meatless Mondays in fall 2012 to introduce healthy vegetarian selections at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Benefits of the weekly program included reducing costs to transport livestock that is passed on to the customers, minimizing the heavy carbon footprint the meat industry generates, and lowering the risk of heart disease and cancer.
As part of the program, most of Blackhawk’s food stations offered vegetarian options for the day. The exception was the grill, which continuously offered chicken patties and hamburgers every week.
Meatless Mondays did not create a significant monetary loss for Blackhawk, but staff observed a noticeable number of students “vote with their feet” by turning away from Blackhawk every Monday, according to Marty Strand, assistant director for dining operations.
“Students would flock to the other locations on campus instead of missing out on meat on that particular station,” Strand said. “And so it really wasn’t as effective as it should be.”
Strand said Blackhawk offers students a very reasonable deal, and students lost out on that deal by going to more expensive campus dining locations every Monday.
“When we push students away from Blackhawk Commons, it becomes less efficient for us to feed them,” Strand said. “It’s most efficient here. They get to choose exactly what they want, how much they want, it’s much easier, much less labor involved with it, it’s just more efficient to feed people here. And if we push them away from here, now our meal plans are going to cost more. It’s just not good for anybody. So it’s important that we try our best to try to service students the way that they are asking us to serve them and don’t take away things from them that they like.”
Strand said although Meatless Mondays was a great program idea, students felt University Dining was enforcing a behavior upon students rather than educating them and letting them decide what to eat. As a result, the feedback University Dining received was mostly negative.
“Most times you won’t hear the positive,” Strand said. “It’ll be there, but you don’t hear that so much. If you go to a restaurant and everything’s great, you wouldn’t say so much about that as if you had a really nasty experience. And that’s kind of what happens.”
Adam Rich, residence hall director in North Scott Hall, said Blackhawk provides great service and students should productively and positively contribute to University Dining’s Food Committee meetings when they are not satisfied with meal options.
“The interesting aspect is [Meatless Mondays was] a student-driven initiative, yet students were opposed to it,” Rich said. “If students are opposed to it, then they need to get more involved.”
Some of the ideas of Meatless Mondays will continue through Blackhawk’s daily offerings, but University Dining will educate students rather than enforce a vegetarian behavior upon them, Strand said.
Flat screen monitors will display environmental, economic and health benefits to consuming less meat. Students can then decide whether they wish to eat meatless options.
The University Studies Program, UW Oshkosh’s new general education curriculum launched this fall, also offers environmental studies classes that are likely to educate students on practicing a greener diet, according to Strand.
Strand said students already enjoy many of Blackhawk’s vegetarian and vegan options, including spinach lasagna, various pizza and soup offerings, the Oodles pasta bar and the dinnertime stir fry station introduced last semester.
Oshkosh student Heather Ostrowski said she had no problems with the Meatless Mondays program because numerous food stations still had options for everybody.
“I liked it because there was still meat,” Ostrowski said. “I thought it was a good idea.”
Sam Green, Oshkosh student, said Meatless Mondays did not change his dining behaviors enough for him to realize Blackhawk discontinued the program.
Oshkosh student Su Jin Park said she felt Meatless Mondays was unneeded.
“I don’t like [the] meatless day because there’s a lot of vegetables in the main line and I think we need balance,” she said.
Student Environmental Action Coalition co-president Patricia Klabunde said although students believe she and other vegetarians have many options available, Blackhawk’s meatless offerings get old and she is disappointed the program was discontinued.
“Meatless Mondays helps give the vegetarians on this campus more options for one day a week, only one day a week,” Klabunde said. “And really it doesn’t affect the meat consumers very much.”
Klabunde said the meat industry’s livestock inhabit filthy farms among sick and dead animals, and the products are cleaned more than twice before they hit the market just to become sanitary. Many animals are also genetically altered and everyone could benefit from reducing their meat intake once a week, according to Klabunde.
“[Meatless Mondays] is something that has the ability to help out the environment and make some of us non-meat-eaters happier for just one day, give us some more options on what to eat for one period, and that is why I think it should stay.”
Blackhawk revisiting steak night problems
University Dining issued a student-wide email Feb. 20 apologizing for a food shortage that occurred at the Stone Steakhouse event Blackhawk introduced Feb. 19.
The event allowed students to use a meal on their Titan Cards and pay additional Titan Dollars for one of four varieties of steak: rib-eye, tenderloin, tuna or salmon.
Strand said University Dining anticipated 160 customers and ordered 200 steaks, assuming most students would not pay extra Titan Dollars for a steak dinner and instead opt for Blackhawk’s typical offerings.
The opposite occurred, and Blackhawk ran out of all 200 steaks by 5 p.m., Strand said.
The email apologized for the shortage and thanked students for the high turnout.
“We were quite overwhelmed by the response and popularity of the Stone Steakhouse and did not expect nearly as many students/staff/faculty to be interested in participating in this event,” the email stated. “We apologize to those who came to Blackhawk Commons last night hoping to get a steak, but were unable to, due to the high demand. We will run this special again in the near future, and now that we know how popular it is we will be better prepared to meet demand next time.”
Strand said he came upstairs during the Stone Steakhouse event and was shocked to see so many students waiting in line.
“In food service, nothing makes you more nervous than lines,” Strand said. “It just drives you crazy.”
Strand said Sodexo is figuring out how to run the program more smoothly. Changes for next time could including dividing the evening into three one-hour timeframes for ticket purposes, adding more cooks and reducing the options to rib-eye and salmon, which proved to be the most popular.
“We’ve got some design issues,” Strand said. “We’ve got to figure out how we can run that program. Students have plenty of Titan Dollars out there with their meal plans that they want to spend, but they need a good option. They said they enjoyed this, they didn’t enjoy waiting in line and they didn’t enjoy that there wasn’t enough for everybody that wanted to have one. And so we’ve got to fix that program.”
Stone Steakhouse is scheduled for March 12 and April 24. Students are encouraged to buy tickets in advance to ensure smooth operation.