Somewhere between your mom’s home cooking and well-disguised sawdust lies the cuisine served at Drexel’s own Handschumacher Dining Hall. Students’ opinions don’t vary much on the quality of food: it’s been universally panned for as long as we can remember. Admittedly, a lot of the complainers don’t have dining plans anymore, but the popular sentiment remains.
All that came to a head last week, when inspectors of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health busted into the underground facility a few days before Thanksgiving, magnifying glasses in hand, and sleuthed out double-digit violations.
The Hans is not unfamiliar with health inspector trouble. A brief glimpse of health and safety inspections throughout the past few years reveal their noncompliance is nothing new. In 2011, they were caught with mice, mold, fruit flies and cockroaches. In 2013, an employee was observed handling food with their bare hands. In comparison, this year’s report—that racked up a mere total of nine foodborne illness violations—almost looks good.
Let’s discuss the real issue here: this is Drexel’s student dining hall. Up until this year, it was the sole dining hall for Drexel’s campus and how most freshman got the majority of their meals. This means that one foodborne illness, passed on through careless food preparation, could take out half of the student body, including all of our freshmen. (If that’s not hazing, then we don’t know what is.) Student dining halls don’t have to serve food that tastes good, but it should at the very least be safe and sanitarily prepared.
While we applaud the University for its effort to provide new dining options for student meal plans, the fact is that these same venues must be held to the highest standards of scrutiny, since they are not only the most common eateries for students with meal plans, they are sometimes the only eateries for students with significant financial needs. We appreciate that the health inspectors considered the violations not serious enough to warrant actually shutting down the Hans, and that there is probably therefore not a significant risk to public health.
However, the Hans has already earned a reputation from the student body for bad food, and now poor hygiene as well. Two years ago several students claimed to have gotten food poisoning from the Hans, with one case even resulting in hospitalization. An internal investigation by Sodexo, then operator of the Hans, and a statement from the Student Health Center indicated that the likely cause was the flu, and not food poisoning. However, the fact that students were so quick to blame the Hans over any other factor shows one thing clearly: our students do not trust the food they eat at the Hans or the service it provides. If the Hans has anything to work on urgently, other than, of course, correcting code violations; it is its own reputation.