Reacting to several health violations and under close scrutiny from Suffolk officials, Sodexo, Suffolk’s food and cafeteria provider, is cleaning up its act.
While most of the violations were minor, there was a critical violation that involved mouse droppings, forcing a re-inspection of the facilities. These marked “failures” were recorded in September.
Now the mouse droppings are gone and the other minor violations such as left out towels, unlocked cabinets and open rice containers have been remedied. The re-inspection was done and completed within a 10 day period of Sodexo’s initial health inspection, where they passed with flying colors.
On a recent tour of the dining halls and Sodexo facilities at Suffolk, the Journal got a closer look of what happens behind the scenes.
Although seemingly designed to show the bright side of Sodexo, the tour did shine some light on the situation, providing information about their previous failed violations.
“Quality comes with safety, but [food] safety always comes first,” said Cliff Martin, the general manager of Sodexo Suffolk University Dining.
Martin showed the Miller Residence Hall Café, the Sawyer Café and the Donahue Café throughout the tour of the Sodexo facilities. He was accompanied by Chef Stephen P. O’Hare and David LaFleur, the executive campus chef, throughout Miller. Here, protocol was discussed as well as cleanliness and safety precautions.
The tour highlighted many safety precautions that the Sodexo staff follows, including color-coded cutting boards to reduce cross contamination. Also, things are forbidden to be left on the floor, which is swept and mopped daily, and temperature logs are diligently kept on all food requiring them.
The rules are strict regarding the health inspection requirements, but Chef O’Hare welcomed the challenge. “We actually embrace the strictness of the rules. Anything less than that and someone could get hurt.”
According to Martin, Sodexo is also in charge of the physical environment of their dining areas and facilities as well. Martin explained that although they cannot fix things like ceiling tiles themselves, it is Sodexo’s responsibility to call the Suffolk maintenance crew to amend the issue.
Regarding the critical violations of the mouse droppings, Martin explained that precautions have taken to the extreme. “Everything has to be kept up off the floor,” explained Martin. “Each week, pest control comes in to re-set traps. The floor is swept and mopped every night as well.”
Sodexo also has made the change to environmentally safe cleaners, as explained by LaFleur. Everything from dish soap to the mopping cleanser used on the floors are green and have been green for the past two years.
All of Sodexo’s violations were explained and fixed. The main issue, however, was the failure of notification to the SGA of said violations in September. According to Karl Hoffman, a member of SGA, Sodexo struck a deal two years ago to inform the SGA of violations so they can inform the student body.
“I was never notified. No one, as far as my knowledge, was notified [about the Sodexo violations],” explained Hoffman. “That is something that they are going to work with the university now as far as notifying SGA to help us notify the student body. They weren’t aware of the promise that was made two years ago. I think it was an honest mistake on that aspect. I really think it was a communication slip-up. I don’t think it was malicious or that the university was trying to hide it.”
Hoffman also said that a new dining committee has been formed to help keep Sodexo and the university on the same page. “We have dining services meetings at least once a month. This one is Dec. 8 in the cafeteria at 73 Tremont.” Among those involved, there is a representative from residence life, Amy Fisher, a representative from health and wellness, Hoffman, as well as Dave DeAngelis, and Cliff Martin, who collaborate and communicate to help improve Sodexo’s presence at Suffolk.
In the end, Martin stressed the idea of suggestions from the student body. Hoffman also agreed with the statement.
“A lot of the times, people don’t always tell us what’s going on. We’re not perfect,” concluded Martin. “The key is safety. We have to be open and honest. It helps us get better.”