Students, parents report a lack of food at U of M dining halls

Outside Middlebrook Hall, on the University of Minnesota campus, a shortage of food and an abundance of frustration is on the menu.

A U of M parent shared photos of nearly empty buffets with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

Freshmen like Bianca Llerena say that amid the shortages, dining hall hours have been cut back.

“So we don’t get as many hours,” Llerena said. “Especially when our classes end kind of late, and I think that’s been for almost all of the dining halls.”

The problem — the university says — is a staffing shortage affecting operations.

“They are short 142 employees based on original staffing plans,” the school said in a statement. “The university and it’s dining vendor, Chartwells, are thoroughly exploring all options available to resolve staffing shortages as soon as possible.”

Renee Chapek, a parent of freshman U of M student Lauren Walters, said the university told her that her daughter would have 24/7 access to food.

“It’s required to sign up for a meal plan when you live in the dorm,” Chapek said. “And it’s $2,400 a semester.”

The university said with the reduced hours, students might have to walk to another dining facility.

Freshman Carter Zirves says he thinks the meal plan fees should be reduced.

“I definitely think the $2,500 is kind of ridiculous, given the situation,” Zirves said. “I understand that they can’t hire people, but if they can’t hire people to work, then they should just pay more.”

Chapek says the school should consider allowing students like her daughter to try something else.

“They have this silver unlimited plan that Lauren is a part of, also has dining dollars which she can use at Caribou or Chick-fil-A or Chipotle or any of the on-campus restaurants,” Chapek said. “Maybe until they get this straightened out there should be something in there that they can access some of that food.”

The U of M says they are focusing on recruiting more employees using both local and national staffing agencies. They are also offering jobs to students and making more pre-made food available to cut back on prep time.

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