Division of Housing and Food Services

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The number of on-campus housing applicants for fall 2014 was, again, more than the amount of people the University is equipped to house. 

For the 2014–2015 school year, 9,743 students applied to live on campus, and the Division of Housing and Food Services housed 7,363 of those students, according to Alison Kothe, communications and marketing coordinator for DHFS. 

The number of applicants includes freshmen, upperclassmen and transfer students who have been admitted into the University. The number does not include applications students withdrew from the pool.

This year’s number of applicants is down from the number of students who applied for the 2013–2014 school year. Laurie Mackey, program director of the Administrative Systems Modernization Program, told the Texan in 2014 that more than 14,000 students applied for on-campus housing that school year. 

“We never really know what our housing demand will be,” Kothe said. “We never have a clear idea of how many freshmen will be attending the University. We do our very best to accommodate every person who wants to live
on campus.”

According to a report The Daily Texan obtained last April, UT needed 3,900 additional beds on-campus to keep up with student demand for housing in 2013.

Despite the report’s findings, Kothe said UT has been able to accommodate, at some point in the year, every student who has applied for housing and stayed on the housing waitlist.

“If they’re waiting until a month before classes begin, they might need to wait a little longer to receive their official contract,” Kothe said. “We don’t really see that we have a shortage on campus because we have been able to accommodate every student who wants housing.”

The University houses 7,400 students on average each year in its 14 on-campus dormitories. In 2014–2015, approximately 15 percent of enrolled students lived in on-campus housing, compared to other peer institutions that house 20–30 percent of their students, according to the report.

Kothe said DHFS had the most trouble in 2012, when UT had a record-size incoming class of freshmen. That year, DHFS had to create space for students on campus by way of supplemental housing. With supplemental housing, lounges in dormitories are converted to living spaces for students.

A survey in the Residence Hall Needs Assessment reported students would prefer new dormitories be built near the center of campus, although Gage Paine, vice president for student affairs, said building dorms east of campus would be more likely. 

Residential Facilities Director Randall Porter said DHFS does not have new dormitories officially planned.  

“Currently, Housing and Food is not working on any specific housing projects,” Randall Porter said in an email. “There [is] some discussion on campus about increased housing, but there are no formal plans at this point.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the 9,743 students who applied for housing during the 2014-2015 school year included students who had not been admitted into the university. The number only includes students who have been admitted into the university.

DHFS Environmental Specialist Hunter Mangrum explains how food gets from the table to the trash at J2 Dining Hall on Monday afternoon. DHFS uses smart sustainability practices to achieve their Zero Waste project as part of the University’s movement to reduce waste.
Photo Credit: Zoe Fu | Daily Texan Staff

The Division of Housing and Food Services disposed of about 330 tons of compostable material in its dining halls and markets in 2014, and DHFS is working to decrease the number each year, according to Hunter Mangrum, environmental specialist with DHFS.

DHFS serves an average of 28,000 meals a day, Mangrum said. DHFS found that hundreds of pounds of excess food are thrown out every day in the dining halls.   

“In a perfect world, everyone is going to eat all of the food on their plate, but that’s not where we live,” Mangrum said. “By operating a food service unit operation on the scale that we do, waste is going to be a by-product. We want that to be as minimal as possible, but it’s going to be there.”

To collect data for the biannual study, DHFS and nutrition students sort through compost in the Kinsolving and J2 dining halls over a two-week period and weigh the amount of waste. 

DHFS’ efforts are part of the University’s Zero Waste project, a plan to divert 90 percent of waste from the University by 2020. Zero Waste coordinator Jennifer Hobson said six percent of the University’s waste comes from recycling, trash and compost, which includes food.

“I think food is definitely a big part of [Zero Waste efforts],” Hobson said. “Even if you don’t buy food on campus, a lot of students are on campus all day, so they’re probably eating at least one [University] meal a day.”

DHFS officials have started several initiatives to curb food waste, including take-home food trays, food sampling and a promotional effort called the Clean Plate Club.

DHFS removed trays from its dining halls in 2008, almost halving their excess food waste, according to Mangrum. Kinsolving and J2 disposed of a estimated 111.94 tons of excess food waste in fall 2008. After banning trays, the same facilities disposed of 58.44 tons of food waste in fall 2009. In fall 2014, Kinsolving and J2 produced an estimated 43.59 tons of excess food waste. 

Students often serve themselves large portion sizes in self-serve locations or are unsatisfied with the food’s taste, Mangrum said. 

“I feel like I leave more food sometimes,” civil engineering freshman Christine Cheng said. “Sometimes it’ll look good, and I’ll take it and I’ll be like, ‘This doesn’t taste as good as I thought it would.’”

DHFS has calculated the correct amounts of food to make and serve, and the cooks and servers in DHFS’ units are trained to serve the correct amounts on each plate, Mangrum said.

If food is left over, the chefs look at what food can be repurposed or used again in the coming days. The food that cannot be repurposed is given to Angel House Soup Kitchen in Austin, which usually occurs on a weekly basis.

“We can count on having some amount of food to give to homeless shelters and other organizations in Austin,” Mangrum said. “But we can be progressive and proactive in how we not only cut [out] our waste — whether prepping and serving — but [in how] we can purchase less.”

Photo Credit: Hannah Hadidi | Daily Texan Staff

After moving to single-stream recycling, both the Division of Housing and Food Services and the University’s main recycling program began accepting and recycling glass products in the fall 2013 semester.

The DHFS has a contract with Republic Services for its recycling and trash needs. According to environmental specialist Hunter Mangrum, it was ultimately the company’s decision to include glass in its recycling program.

“Republic gave us a call over the summer saying they would be moving into the area and letting us know, and keeping us posted on the official rollout date when they would be okay with us getting the word out about [recycling glass],” Mangrum said.

Undergraduate studies sophomore Jacquelyn Sepulveda, who has lived in a residence hall for two years, said she was not surprised to see the addition of glass as a recyclable.

“I think they just want to make it easier for students to recycle,” Sepulveda said. “UT seems like they’re always trying to make an effort to have a greener campus.”

Because the change to include glass was an amendment to the current contract with the company, Mangrum said there was no additional cost.

Recycling in academic buildings is under a different division and contracted with a different company, Balcones Resources, which also recently included glass in its recycling program, along with single stream recycling, which makes it easier on the group generating waste, facilities services manager Ben Reid said.

“Basically, it’s putting all your recyclable items into one stream versus … source-separating,” Reid said. “Source-separating is where you have your plastic, aluminum, etc., and single stream is where you put everything together and give it to the recycler, [who then sorts] it for you.”

Mangrum said the majority of glass products on campus come from off-campus retailers.

“Since we haven’t been able to recycle glass until now … there are only two glass options,” Mangrum said. “Both are made by Starbucks. They’re really high sellers, and there would be an uproar if those were to go missing, and, now, especially, since we can actually accept those items, there’s no reason to really change that stream.”

The need for glass recycling was evident by students’ actions, Reid said. Before UT’s incorporation of glass recycling, students would often leave their glass bottles on top of the current bins because they felt glass was a recyclable material, Reid said. 

Mallory Foutch, English and history senior, is a resident assistant at Moore-Hill dormitory. Foutch believes having a roommate helps develop habits that are useful when working in an office with people and teams in a professional setting.  

Photo Credit: Helen Fernandez | Daily Texan Staff

While other students at campuses around the country are taking advantage of the “super single” option — rooms with double the space but only one resident — no students are choosing the option at UT, according to UT officials.

Laurie Mackey, director of administrative services at the Division of Housing and Food Services, said DHFS offers basic single rooms, which are 135 square feet, and two types of larger single rooms, both of which are referred to as premium singles. According to Mackey, out of all 6,956 rooms in on-campus residence halls, only 250 are single rooms, and fewer than 200 students have taken advantage of the single option.

“We offer all of the premium singles that we have, which is why I do not see the trend increasing to offer more premium singles in the future,” Mackey said.

DHFS also allows double rooms to be used as singles in San Jacinto Residence Hall, assigning them on the basis of request and availability. Students have to pay as much as they would have to if two people were living in the room, but, according to Mackey, no students are currently utilizing the “super single” option.

“Less than 10 expressed an interest, and, when extended an offer, did not accept it,” Mackey said.

Mathematics freshman Erica Herod said she thinks, if she lived alone, she would have been discouraged, lonely and unmotivated to be productive.

“When one of us is feeling stressed or has a big test, we’re always there to support each other,” Herod said. “Since I’m brand new and don’t have many friends yet, it’s nice to know that when I come home I have a friend, and [that] I live with her and I get to see her all the time.”

Mallory Foutch, English and history senior, said she thinks it’s good to have a roommate when going through a period of transition in order to have someone to talk to about the experience. According to Foutch, living with a roommate also teaches students important lessons for later in life.

“I also think that having a roommate prepares you for life, in general, where you’re going to have to work with people eventually at some point,” Foutch said. “Learning how to live with someone, I think, is great practice for learning how to work in teams or in an office.”

Robert Mayberry, executive chef for UT’s Division of Housing and Food Services, cares for a plot at The Concho Community Garden that produces a small amount of food used at UT.  DHFS is currently building a new garden at Jester Dormitory that will be powered by rainwater collection and solar energy and will grow fruits and vegetables for the dining halls.

Photo Credit: Erika Rich | Daily Texan Staff

UT broke ground on a new food garden this month that will bring more homegrown food to campus plates this fall, an increasingly common practice at Texas institutions looking for sustainable practices during the state’s three-year drought.

Spanning several hundred feet along Brackenridge Hall on 21st Street, the Jester South Garden will produce fruits and vegetables to be served at UT residence halls. The garden will be self-sustaining, supported by rainwater collection and a water pump powered by solar energy. Officials are currently preparing land to plant food in the garden, which could be completed as early as September.

UT officials said although growing their own food comes with cost and weather challenges, the new garden will support various food programs on campus and reduce the University’s dependence on outside providers, which are often plagued by high demand.

The new garden would help the University reach its goal of providing as much local and homegrown food as it can on campus, officials said.

“Organic produce requires a lot more patience, research and understanding of the nature of soil, but we are better off understanding the place we grow and using methods that reduce our footprint and are natural to that environment,” said Hunter Mangrum, an environmental specialist for the Division of Housing and Food Services.

Only 5 percent of commercial institutions nationwide produce their own food, and UT is one of them, Mangrum said. Along with the Jester South Garden, UT also runs the Kinsolving Courtyard Garden on Whitis Avenue and the Concho Community Gardens in East Campus.

The University makes a concentrated effort to obtain any food it does not grow itself from local farms in Central Texas, officials said, which is not always easy because of drought conditions and demand. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted this month that it expects drought conditions in Texas to continue through October.

Officials say sustainable gardens help reduce DHFS’s dependence on the Sustainable Food Center of Austin. 

During the 2012-2013 academic year, DFHS obtained 23 percent of its $8 million food budget from local foods grown at farms smaller than 200 acres within a 150-mile radius of UT.

Mangrum said the Jester South Garden will grow a variety of produce. Summer and spring will yield fruits and vegetables while winter will bring potatoes and squashes. 

A team of undergraduate and graduate students will be trained in the fall on how to maintain the garden, Mangrum said.

The new garden will also increase support for other food programs on campus, including Farm to Work, which allows faculty and staff to have produce delivered to their workplace every week.

The program has already become very popular, said Claire Moore, a manager in Human Resource Services. Moore said the Jester South Garden would increase the amount of produce available to University employees through the program.

“The employees are really enjoying it, the farmers had a good turnout and they’re happy with the amount of boxes that have been ordered,” Moore said. “We’ve had great reviews and there have been a lot of repeat customers.”

Robert Mayberry, an executive chef and food service manager, will lead the choice of what crops to plant and harvest in the garden.

Mayberry said there would be many challenges ahead for the garden, including the higher costs of small-scale farming and susceptibility to local weather conditions.

However, Mayberry said the garden is still a step up from mass agribusiness that brings in low-cost foods at the risk of heavy chemical practices and practices that damage soil in the long-term.

“Low-cost and abundant food can be looked at as a loan,” Mayberry said. “Someone down the line will have to pay the bill, and it will come due.”

Correction on July 24: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the garden would yield fruits and vegetables in the winter. This is incorrect. The garden will yield fruits and vegetables in the summer. The article also stated that the Sustainable Food Center of Austin was DHFS's largest food provider. DHFS is actually the center's largest buyer.

The Division of Housing and Food Services has made efforts to meet the needs of students with food allergies, including providing gluten free meals.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

University of Texas students with food allergies can rest easy knowing their dietary needs are met on campus, although not all universities can say the same.

At Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. students with gluten allergies recently won a settlement after a lawsuit claimed the University was falling short of the American with Disabilities Act requirements by not offering gluten-free food options but requiring students to live on campus and buy a meal plan. Lesley is now offering gluten-free options on campus.

Lindsay Gaydos, Division of Housing and Food Services dietitian, said although UT students are not required to live on campus, those who do are required to buy a meal plan. The housing contract states that special meals for medical and religious related diets are not available, but the division has made efforts to meet the needs of students with food allergies, particularly in recent years.

“Students have the option of whether they want to live and dine with us,” Gaydos said. “Regardless of what the contract says, we are willing to assist in any possible way can for students with food allergies and special diets. We’re actually looking at rewording that within our contract in the near future, because we do so much in terms of accommodating.”

Biology sophomore Theresa Deike, who has been on a gluten-free diet for more than three years, said the awareness of gluten-free food in Austin and on campus makes it easy to find safe food for her to eat, and contributed to her decision to study at UT.

“I’ve been to other universities, like Baylor, where there was basically only one option, but I couldn’t eat the same meal every day for four years,” Deike said. “I eat at Jester a lot. I can pretty much eat whatever I want. In J2 especially, the staff is really good about answering questions about what is gluten-free.”

Gaydos said students living on campus can meet her for free personal appointments about food allergies, vegan or vegetarian diets and diet plans for healthy weight loss.

“When I meet with students with food allergies, I’m able to go through our entire menu with them and specifically take out the food items that meet their diet requirement, that way they know ahead of time what’s available to them,” Gaydos said.

Resident dining hall menus are provided online and are available on a mobile app, with at least one gluten-free option per each meal. Food icons, implemented in 2011, identify the top eight food allergens, as well as food items that are often avoided for religious reasons.

Jennifer Maedgen, Services for Students with Disabilities interim director, said although her office may be a first point of contact for new students with food allergies, they typically work directly with Division of Housing and Food Services because the division makes many accommodations in the dining halls and students rarely need further assistance.

“Because UT is such a large place, students may not know where to start,” Maedgen said. “Students with food allergies typically do not require classroom accommodations, but SSD may be more involved if they need accommodations in their campus living environment, but we would work with [DHFS] in these instances as well. As with all students, we work with them on an individual basis depending on their needs.”

Jester Second Floor dining hall will close starting Monday while the Division of Housing and Food Services makes changes.

According to a news release by the division, J2 will close for “adjustments” to the dining hall intended to improve the dining atmosphere. No expected completion date is listed. While J2 is closed, students will have access to “Grab n’ Go” meals, including lunch and dinner options such as deli-sliced ham sandwiches and spicy breaded chicken sandwiches. Changes to the pizza and burger lines began Nov. 5, according to the release. Items from those lines were moved to the VIP line in the interim.

J2, located above Jester City Limits in Jester Residence Hall, serves meals buffet style and accepts Dine In Dollars. Students living in campus residence halls get $1,400 in Dine In Dollars for the school year to spend at dining halls. The Kinsolving Dining Center, which also accepts Dine In Dollars, will remain open.  

J2 also underwent renovations two years ago between Nov. 8 2010 and January 2011. Renovations included adding a private dining room, an open entry and changes to serving lines.

According to the release, while the division realizes “this is a teeny weeny bit inconvenient,” it will enhance dining experiences for students who frequent J2 while on campus.

To learn more, go to http://www.utexas.edu/student/housing/pdfs/j2_closing_final.pdf.

Printed on Monday, Nov. 26, 2012 as: J2 closes Monday for DHFS changes

As a frequent patron of Littlefield Patio Cafe, I have noticed a common lunch choice among the students dining there: pizza. For those of you who have not seen it, Littlefield Patio Cafe’s pizza is a sight: thick crust, dripping with brushed-on butter, and enough cheese per slice to cover a whole pizza pie. I’m not talking about a crisp brick oven, New York-style thin crust pizza. No. Think a slice of Texas toast  plus a cup of cheese dripping in fat. That is what you get in one slice of Littlefield’s pizza.

OK, I exaggerate a bit. But my point is still valid. College students’ diets are neither healthy nor varied. When I confronted some of my peers about their eating habits, most of them responded with something to the effect of, “Healthy food is not available on campus, and if it is, it’s expensive.”
But my friends’ complaints are not true.

Over the past eight to nine years, the Division of Housing and Food Services at UT has been working hard to provide more nutritious food in the cafeterias. The department has had considerable success.

According to Executive Chef Robert Mayberry, DHFS partners with the Sustainable Food Center to provide local, healthier meal options to students. For example, many of the vegetables served this month (such as potatoes, lettuce, and arugula) are from local farms. The boiled eggs in Kinsolving are organic eggs from Vital Farms, a local establishment. The tortillas are locally cooked, too.

Recently, DHFS has added a nutritionist to their team and nutritional information for menu items at Jester, Kinsolving, Littlefield and Cypress Bend are available online. The staff has also marked locally grown produce with special symbols — a Texas sign for local foods and a red recycling sign for sustainable eats.

In other words, healthier options are available, for the same price as unhealthy food, all over campus. Students just have to know to look for them.

Some questions remain unanswered. Why is junk food still available, and why do college students choose it over healthier options? If there is a crisis of eating habits on campuses in this country, is it the responsibility of the dining halls to stop serving calorie-and-cheese-laden pizza, or the students’ to stop demanding it?

According to Chef Mayberry, stopping the provision of healthier foods in the cafeteria is nearly impossible because “people have come to expect they can get anything they want at any time.” Such an approach doesn’t work when you are offered only sustainable, local eats. Even more of it has to do with students’ unwillingness to re-learn how to eat. Mayberry notes that students are reluctant to educate themselves on healthy eating. “A person has to want to change. There is just a lot of junk food out there,” he said.

How willing are students to stop eating junk food? Vivian Yee recently reported in the New York Times about how grade school students have thrown lunches on the floor in protest of changes toward healthier meals.

College dining halls do at times resemble elementary school lunchrooms, but if students on this campus truly want to shift toward healthier eating habits, they must distinguish themselves from third-graders and accept that the burden is on them to exercise their power as consumers.

Yesterday afternoon, while brushing butter on a pie’s golden crust, one Littlefield Patio Cafe employee paused to tell me that the cafe sells around 80 pizzas a day. If UT students are serious about increasing the quantity of “good” food available on campus, they must indicate so in their dining habits.

Malik is a Plan II and Business Honors Program freshman.

Health programs, services and healthy dining hall food options contributed to UT’s number seven place among the Top 25 healthiest colleges in the nation.

Greatist.com, a health and wellness blog, recently ranked the 25 healthiest colleges by taking student surveys from College Prowler and The Princeton Review, as well as nominations from readers. UCLA ranked number one.

Susan Hochman, interim assistant director for University Health Services, said the University offers a large number of high-quality, accessible resources to keep students healthy.

“University Health Services, which provides medical services, health promotion, a Center for Students in Recovery and other public health leadership was recently ranked by the Princeton Review as the fourth best student health services in the country and consistently receives high remarks for patient satisfaction,” Hochman said.

The seventh place ranking was mainly due to the efforts of the Wellness Network, a partnership made up of students, faculty and staff who work together to create a healthy campus community.

“The Wellness Network brings together advocates for health and wellness from across UT in order to share information, strategies and resources,” Hochman said. “Through this collaboration, we aim to shape the environment in which we learn, live, work and play to support overall health and healthy choices.”

Another contributing factor to the high rank was the Division of Housing and Food Services and their promotion of healthy dining options and their number of initiatives related to wellness, Hochman said.

Applied Learning and Development senior Sammie Hanks, president of the Health Promotion Club, said students are fortunate to attend a school that provides a healthy atmosphere.

“Being provided with these outlets promotes healthy living throughout our campus,” Hanks said. “This ranking is very honorable and is a motivation to continue to promote health, not only throughout our campus, but throughout the community as well.”

Scott Meyer, director of food service for DHFS, said the “Healthy Suggestions” food in the dining halls gives students healthy options for every meal.

“We realize that many students dine with us as freshman and oftentimes miss the comfort foods of home and turn to food items such as hamburgers, french fries and macaroni and cheese,” Meyer said. “We provide the comfort and indulgence food items mentioned, but also take strides to make students aware of the delicious, healthier alternatives that we offer such as our gluten free, vegan and vegetarian friendly dishes, quinoa and whole grain pasta and our local grass-fed beef.” 

Printed on Friday, April 13, 2012 as: UT ranks No. 7 in healthiest college in U.S.

Students living on campus depend on the $1,700 that the Division of Housing and Food Services provides to feed them. They need a meal plan that is versatile in hours, diverse in options and, most importantly, that will last until the end of the year. Unfortunately, campus dining fails at all of these criteria. If UT wants to present a viable option for student dining, it must provide better hours, fairer pricing and more Bevo Bucks.

At an academically rigorous institution such as UT, students are often awake at odd and unpredictable hours, and they need sustenance to push through until morning. Unfortunately, on-campus stores such as Kin’s Market and Jester City Market close between 3 p.m. and 11 p.m., depending on the day. For clarity, the article will refer to these UT locations from this point forward as “inconvenient” stores.

UT claims it cannot sustain a profitable business model if it keeps its “inconvenient” stores open on weekend afternoons or late at night, but this is a flawed argument at its core. Justifying motives with a standard economic business model makes no sense when the money is only shifting from UT’s left hand to its right regardless. The purpose of UT’s food service is not to turn a profit — which is impossible anyway — but rather to serve its student population.
Off-campus convenience stores stay successful while remaining open 24 hours a day, so it seems odd that UT cannot manage the same feat, especially when it has such a cornered market. Just like any normal convenience store, all it would take would be a single worker to handle transactions. The minimal increase in labor costs involved in keeping on-campus dining open later would be well worth the increase in business and would probably save DHFS costs in disposing of unpurchased food at the end of the day.

Additionally, the current plan provides insufficient funds for a standard appetite. With the current meal plan, Bevo Bucks included, students have about $7 a day to feed themselves. Seeing as how a sandwich, chips and a drink costs nearly $10 at Kin’s Market, it seems impossible for a student to survive off this amount without supplementing it with personal funds.

“But look,” says the University to parents, “You can eat at an all-you-can-eat buffet at J2 or Kinsolving Dining Hall twice a day!” That seems like a pretty sweet deal, right?

But there are several facts parents may be unaware of. First of all, this buffet cost is heavily subsidized with the money made up by huge margins on any food purchased in the “inconvenient” stores and a la carte locales. Second, the hours of the buffet are extremely limited, and they are often when students are in class or at meetings. Finally, students are often rushing to class or caught in time crunches between activities, so they do not have time to sit down in the buffet. Rather, they are forced to pick up food from the other locations, where the prices are much higher.

If a student were to eat a single breakfast croissant and orange juice for breakfast, a wrap and bottled water for lunch and a ham sandwich and soda for dinner, he or she would be out of Dine-in Dollars by November. Toss in such luxuries as a cookie and chips into the mix, and the student is broke within two months. The University cannot seriously expect students to live off such meager rations.

The situation is even worse with Bevo Bucks, of which students are only given $300. If a student were to eat off campus twice a week — perhaps on Friday, when Kin’s Market closes at 3 p.m. or Sunday, when the dining hall doesn’t serve dinner — and spend $10, he or she would be out of Bevo Bucks halfway through the year. Add in the cost of laundry, and it’s easy to see why most students are out of Bevo Bucks so quickly. Even with the humblest lifestyle, students have no way to adequately make this flawed meal plan work without having to refill with their own money.

UT only retains about 30 percent of its on-campus residents the following year, and it’s not difficult to see why. The University needs to provide better hours, fairer pricing and a more reasonable amount of Bevo Bucks to its on-campus students. But until it stops seeing the meal plan as a game of dollars and cents, this will never happen. And when the business major of all people tells you it’s time to take your eyes off the financials, you know you have a problem.

McGarvey is a business honors freshman.