It’s likely that you’ve noticed on-campus dining halls, restaurants, and stores are in need of help. In the midst of a global pandemic, patrons are questioning the quality of food as well as quality of service. Are you overlooking the reason why? For several months there’s been an ongoing labor shortage that’s impacting the food industry severely.
Lack of workers should be magnified because it answers the majority of questions and complaints. The situation shouldn’t just be taken at face value. There are many contributing factors to why there are so many open positions. At the height of the pandemic, the unemployment rate skyrocketed. People were laid off and many others quit their jobs. During that time there was an influx of money that was to be given out to the working class. Some received more money by collecting unemployment than they would have while working. Is it that people don’t want to work because they’ve become content?
Erin Flint, from the Office Admin. for the food service on campus, gave insight on these adverse times, “Before the pandemic we were fully staffed and there was a better selection of food”. Alfred University lost some of their main food suppliers because of cutbacks on workers and shortages of popular foods. The university also lost half of their food service employees. It’s evident that the loss of employees was pivotal; the beginning of a “slippery slope”.
Before the pandemic Alfred’s food scene was dynamic because of the accessibility to multiple styles of serving. In the past two semesters there were changes made in order to compensate for social distancing rules. The food operations went relatively smoothly. What has to be taken into account is there weren’t as many people to accommodate. With less people attending the university because of COVID-19, there was less of a demand for employees. Now that there are more students, but less people willing to work, Alfred’s feeling the effects. The quality of food is down. The number of students attending dining halls is down. The worker shortage is to blame.
Powell and Ade used to be bustling with traffic on most evenings. These days there is more of an eeriness. Though there are two sit-in locations on the top floor, it’s safe to say things are not the same. The “people are in pandemic mode,” according to Flint. It’s been said that people became less sociable, and less aware of their surroundings. Interactions that used to be common before, aren’t any longer. Students are now prone to walk with their heads down,with less eye contact or concern for other people. “Pandemic mode” may contribute to the lack of workers and the quality of service.
“Some people took this time off work to spend time with their family. Others went back to school or learned a trade, “ said Nikki Haight, the Ade Supervisor. Haight strongly believes there is room for optimism. For student employees the pay was raised, along with a $50 signing bonus and dining dollars. These are the kinds of incentives that appeal to those in need of a job. There are also positions to fill at the Collegiate and Terra Cotta on Main Street.
Although the shortage is affecting all industries, the food industry in Alfred has taken the biggest hit. Unemployment has run its course and most college students are in need of money from somewhere. With the number of moving parts in a food operation, there are always jobs waiting to be filled.
By Jamall Lewis