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Food Services Responds to Student Concerns

Penn College Food Services presents the following responses to Frequently Asked Questions. For further information, visit the Food Services Web page , call the Food Services office at (570) 327-4767, or visit the office in the Hager Lifelong Education Center, Room A137.


Q: Food Services’ prices here seem high. Why is that?A: Our prices are directly related to the costs we have to pay for the products needed to prepare meals for our students. Catastrophic changes to food supplies (droughts, floods, hurricanes, etc.) can significantly impact the cost that Food Services has to pay (in August and September this year, our cost of chicken wings increased86 percent in just 44 days due to hurricanes wiping out chicken farmers.)

These are the same impacts that you see in your local grocery store when items experience a sudden increase in cost. Costs are also affected by the import and export markets. Mad Cow disease, bird-flu epidemics, etc. affect the beef and poultry markets as news of such problems (even if not occurring in this country) come to light.

An impact to the sugar market, as is currently being discussed in the news due to Hurricane Katrina damaging the Gulf Coast sugar-cane industry, can affect the cost of any product that contains sugar. Coffee and cocoa markets also have been extremely volatile due to climate changes and poor growing seasons in coffee-growing regions.

All of these things affect the costs to Food Services and ultimately impact the selling prices of our offerings.

Q: Can’t we get cheaper food? A: Unfortunately, “cheaper” food usually means lower-quality food, and we believe serving low-quality products to our students is unacceptable. Food Services sets high standards for our food products. We specify only Grade A vegetables and fruits for purchase. Meats also have tight quality-control standards that must be met in order to meet our specifications.

Also, Food Services uses locally grown and produced bulk hamburger and hamburger patties, produced in a certified organic processing plant. The ground beef is free from growth hormones, raised on a farm free from pesticide and herbicide use. You will find our ground beef high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce your risk of cancer and chance for high blood pressure. Our beef also contains less fat and is lower in calories than meat from grain-fed cattle.

We do not use any “government commodity” food. We use the same distributors and suppliers that local restaurants would use, and we set very high standards for the quality of food that we buy from these suppliers. Items that some restaurants find “good enough” for their use may not meet our standards and would not be used here.

Our bulk milk served at CC Commons, the Susquehanna Room and Children’s Learning Center is locally producedby a farmer who uses dairy cattle with a grass-based diet. There are no pesticides or herbicides used on the farm. There are no antibiotics or growth hormones used on the cattle, which means a healthier product for our customers. Milk from grass-fed animals is rich in conjugated linoleic acid (a “good fat”), or CLA, which may be a potent defense against cancer.

With the exception of about two soups, our soups at CC Commons, Wrapture, Wildcat Express and the Susquehanna Room are made from scratch. We could use canned or frozen soups for our dining units, but we don’t feel that is the highest-quality product that we could offer our customers. We use fresh ingredients and start with a roux to create a soup that is rich and flavorful.

All of our mashed potatoes are made from scratch. We start with fresh diced potatoes to which we add milk and butter and whip them to a smooth consistency. You’d be hard-pressed to go to very many high-volume facilities such as ours and find real potatoes. Sure, it’s cheaper to make the instant ones, but they just don’t taste the same.

Q: Shouldn’t food at a college cost less? A: Food Services is an “auxiliary” department at Penn College . This means that Food Services is responsible for covering its own expenses, such as labor, food and supplies, capital equipment replacement, rent, and utilities. Food Services must cover all of these expenses each year regardless of the skyrocketing increases in costs of staff compensation (such as medical insurance), utilities and raw food costs.

Q: Isn’t the Bistro/CC Commons renovation responsible for the high prices? A: No. The cost of the renovation was funded from a College bond issue and is unrelated to food prices.

Q: Can’t we expect any reduction in prices? A: Yes. Effective Monday, Oct. 24, we are adjusting the prices of the buffet in CC Commons. The Lite Lunch option is changed to a Lite option for both lunch and dinner: $7.95 for soup, salad, beverage and dessert. The full buffet price will be $9.95 for both lunch and dinner. Periodic offerings like a special meat carving or a special seafood offering will be available for an additional price that will be determined based on the market cost of the product.

Q: What can I do when I’m here on weekends and don’t want to eat at the buffet? A: Wildcat Express in the Bush Campus Center has a variety of offerings from which you may choose, including sandwiches, soups, salads, fruits and packaged entrees like you find in the Susquehanna Room during the week.

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