Housing and Food Service

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hinojosa | Daily Texan Staff

Blue Bell Ice Cream and Sabra have issued recalls for many of their products because of a possible contamination with Listeria Monocytogens, a food bacterium. The Division of Housing and Food Service said it removed all possibly contaminated food items from campus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, listeriosis is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium commonly known as listeria. Common symptoms of listeriosis include fever and muscle aches, headaches, stiff necks, confusion, loss of balance and possible
intestinal problems.

University Health Services medical director David Vander Straten said students should not become worried if they recently ate any Blue Bell or Sabra products.

“Students might have listeria, but if [they] don’t have any symptoms, there’s no need to worry about it,” Straten said.

All Blue Bell products have been recalled from the main markets on campus, including Jester City Market and Cypress Café, according to DHFS food service director Rene Rodriguez.

The CDC encourages individuals to check the code date on the bottom of Blue Bell ice creams in order to find out where the ice cream was produced. If the code date ends in an S, T, O, P, Q or R, the CDC recommends placing the ice cream in a sealed plastic bag and throwing it away.

Sabra hummus products remain in markets on campus because the recall did not include any of the products in the University’s inventory.

“At no point were any of the affected hummus products stocked in Housing and Food Service outlets on campus,” Rodriguez said. “The lot numbers and package sizes affected were not a match to our purchased products.”

Undeclared freshman Quoc Le said he continued to eat Sabra products, even though he read on his Twitter feed that the products had been recalled.

“I just assumed that the Sabra packages at Jester Market [were] not part of the ones that had been recalled,” Le said.

There have been eight confirmed cases of listeriosis linked to the contamination of Blue Bell products, with five of the cases reported from Kansas and three cases from Texas. Three individuals from Kansas have died from listeriosis.

The most recent major listeria outbreak involved prepackaged caramel apples made with Bidart Bros. Apples in December 2014. The outbreak resulted in 35 reported cases across the nation and seven deaths. 

According to the CDC, the 2014 outbreak seems to be over, although people who continue to eat the recalled products may be at risk of contamination.

The Staff Ombuds Office and Division of Housing and Food Service hosted Share-A-Taco Day at the Blanton Museum Faulkner Plaza, where live music and free tacos delighted both staff members and postdoctoral researchers Wednesday.

Through the public event, the Staff Ombuds Office attempted to increase staff members’ awareness of the office. 

The ombuds office aims to assist staff members by providing them an outlet to voice any concerns or difficulties they might have and to provide them with a variety of options to resolve their concerns, according to Jennifer Graf Sims, the first staff ombuds officer at the University. 

“We are a confidential resource for folks to talk to us about any workplace problem,” Sims said. “It could be something as small as your co-worker not saying hello to something big such as a wrongdoing on campus.”

The need for confidentiality has limited outreach efforts, according to Sims. 

“A lot of the work we do is behind closed doors, so we don’t get to go out and interact, so [the event] was a great way to do that and spread the word,” Sims said.

The event received an overwhelming attendance from staff who waited in crowded lines while listening to music played by Jason Molin, digital media manager at the University.

According to staff ombuds officer Jeremy Roye, the invitation to the event drew around 500 responses from staff members, who showed up in full force Wednesday.

Although it is a small office with limited resources, the staff ombuds office was able to get local sponsorships from O’s Campus Cafe and Fuzzy’s Taco Shop for the event, Roye said. 

The office stimulated communication among faculty members by encouraging them to spread kindness by sharing thank-you notes and tacos with other faculty.

“We wanted a way to have others help appreciate staff, build community and hook ‘em with kindness,” Sims said.

The office hopes to be able to continue hosting public events like Share-A-Taco Day in the near future.

“We want to do another kindness event, maybe a taco event,” Roye said. “I’d love to see this turn into an official day in Austin, Share-A-Taco Day.”

Correction: In an earlier version of this article, the group the Staff Ombuds Office assists was misidentified.

Photo Credit: Connor Murphy | Daily Texan Staff

Students consume about 77 percent more bananas than they do apples, according to 2013 data from the Division of Housing and Food Service, making them the most popular fruit sold by the University.

In 2013, the University purchased 238,320 bananas, while only purchasing 71,559 apples. Darla Stewart, DHFS assistant director for purchasing and procurement, said the University uses a food management software system to determine how many cases of bananas and other types of fruit should be purchased from the produce vendors who provide shipments daily.

“The [dining hall] managers will go into the system and forecast the number of students or customers they expect to have,” Stewart said. “They say, ‘OK, for this meal period — say, for lunch in [Jester Second Floor Dining] — we’ll probably have 1,500 people.’ They’ll enter 1,500, and the computer, using its data that has been put in, and historic data, will then come up with an amount that needs to be purchased.”

Stewart said the system, which has been in place for about 20 years, is accurate enough that there is rarely any leftover fruit.

“We utilize every bit of fruit,” Stewart said. “If, for instance, there are some bananas, which would be the only fruit that’s leftover, we freeze them and use them in our banana bread.”

According to Scott Meyer, DHFS food service director, besides leftover food items, fruits that sell out are also indicators of how much fruit to purchase.

“Every week, [the system is] updating itself,” Meyer said. “[If the system] told you to buy four cases of apples, and you used all four of them, you might want to get five cases next time.”

According to Stewart, increased methods of transportation have allowed fruit to be shipped globally, while still maintaining excellent quality.

“In the last 20 years, my bet is that there is more fruit being eaten now than then,” Meyer said. 

According to Stewart, the increased education regarding the values of eating fruits may be another reason for increased fruit consumption.

Biology senior Cameron Ginnings said he generally eats a banana once a week when he eats the fajitas in Jester City Limits, and that he makes use of the option in JCL to substitute any side with a piece of fruit or small salad.

“Whenever I get the fajitas, I like the beans, but I don’t like the rice, so I get a banana for a side,” Ginnings said. “[Bananas] taste good. That’s why I choose them over an apple.”

Fourteen new fruit trees were recently added to the UT orchard located at the intersection of San Jacinto and East 24th street. The orchard was founded in the spring of 2010 in order to raise environmental awareness.


Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

Students broke new ground in environmental awareness, as 14 new fruit trees were recently added to the UT Orchard.

The Orchard, located at the intersection of San Jacinto and East 24th streets, was founded in spring 2010 as part of an initiative to generate environmental awareness and encourage student involvement. 

Students from several environmental organizations around campus, including the Campus Environmental Center and the Division of Housing and Food Service’s Green Corps, helped plant and mulch the new trees. Fig, persimmon, lemon, kumquat and chokecherry trees were among the new varieties added to the Orchard. 

According to Jennifer Hrobar, supervisor of urban forestry for the University, the new trees were chosen because of their relatively low need for maintenance and ability to grow well in the Central Texas climate.

Hrobar said planting the new trees was part of an effort for the University to maintain its status as a Tree Campus USA member — a designation awarded by the Arbor Day Foundation to schools that follow certain guidelines in managing trees on campus — requiring the University to host a service-learning project for students.

Emily Mixon, Plan II senior and director of the Campus Environmental Center, said she thinks UT’s continued involvement with Tree Campus USA is important because it raises awareness about environmental issues on campus.

“I wish more people realized the guidelines that go into planting trees on campus,” Mixon said. “I think it’s a great way to get students plugged into noticing nature in our everyday lives and being conscientious about how they use campus as a whole.” 

According to Hrobar, the Orchard supervisors will grow the trees using a minimal amount of pesticides in an attempt to promote environmental sustainability.

“We don’t use many pesticides on the trees, and we use organic fertilizer,” Hrobar said. “We want anyone to be able to go out there, pick fruit and eat it, without worrying about ingesting any chemicals.”

Hunter Mangrum, environmental specialist at Division of Housing and Food Service, said he thinks allowing students to plant the trees encourages them to learn about sustainability on campus.  

“I think it’s a really cool way to reach students,” Mangrum said. “It’s a very hands-on type of approach to get students involved with planting and landscaping to promote sustainability.” 

With over 86 percent of students enrolled at the University choosing to live off campus this year, according to the Division of Housing and Food Service, there’s no question that hundreds of students get stuck in traffic jams down Interstate 35 while on their way to school — some 20 minutes late to classes regularly, others unable to consistently commit to meetings or appointments held on campus. 

So why do students look for housing beyond the immediate vicinity of campus? The answer has two parts: rent prices and livability.

For the majority of the University’s history, the second-most convenient alternative to living on campus has been living in West Campus. However, living so close to campus doesn’t come cheap. 

In mid-October, West Campus’ premier student apartments collectively announced their increased rent prices for the 2014-2015 school year (chiming in at $900 to $1,000 a month at 26 West, 2400 Nueces and The Quarters on Campus, according to representatives of those complexes). Although expected to drop before students begin signing new leases, numbers like these are what force thousands of students into living farther from campus in the first place. Secondly, along with its higher rent prices, West Campus has other stigmas — one of them being its infamous reputation for not being minority-friendly. Many students simply do not feel as though they belong there.

The University itself is home to 14 residence halls with a total of 7,300 beds — clearly not enough for UT’s 52,076 students. According to Hemlata Jhaveri, director of the Division of Housing and Food Service, “Any student that applies for a housing contract can get one.” Still, a majority of  students live off campus, possibly because of the lure of the comparative freedom available in an off-campus apartment. 

If students who live on campus have easier access to their classes and professors, what about students who live off campus but still in close proximity to UT?

West Campus apartments are just a short walk to campus — students don’t have to deal with highway traffic jams before their classes, and on-campus events or meetings are much more accessible. 

“I lived in West Campus last year and never had any issues with coming to school for anything during any part of the day,” said psychology junior Zamaria John.

As a junior, I feel like this school year has been my busiest one yet. This year is also my first year of opting to live farther from campus, and I have never been so late to so many things in my life.

It’s no secret that the farther you get from campus, the faster the rent prices drop. But at what cost to students? In my time at UT, many students I have met who live far from the University tend to not get as involved with campus organizations because they know that commuting back and forth to campus multiple times a day would be too much of a burden. 

“West Campus is definitely somewhat worth the cost stigma the apartments have,” John said. “I could run home between classes and always still be on time throughout the day. Living down I-35 seems somewhat close when you make the decision to live there, until you get caught in weekday traffic almost every day.”

Depending on whether or not predicted rent prices for next school year remain at their remarkably high rate in West Campus, students who have to deal with arduous commutes on a daily basis should consider looking past the downsides of West Campus and should try to stay closer to the University and to everything hosted at it. 

Neilson is a public relations junior from Houston.

Emily Twa is a contestant in the Cupcake Showdown, a cupcake competition organized by the Division of Housing and Food Service for student organizations. The live cupcake bake-off involves 2 rounds and the winning organization will receive $1000 to donate to the charity of their choice.

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

Perhaps there is no other baked good that inspires more passion than the cupcake. Cupcake lovers argue over the dominance of red velvet versus Funfetti, buttercream frosting versus chocolate ganache, and even the proper way to eat a cupcake. These conflicting views may come to a tension-filled climax at the University of Texas’ first ever battle royal of baking. 

The University of Texas is no stranger to competition. The Longhorns’ academic achievement and athletic prowess are forces to be reckoned with for universities throughout the nation. UT’s Division of Housing and Food Service has decided to use the Texas student competitive spirit in a new forum. It is hosting an event open to all student organizations called the Cupcake Showdown.

The Cupcake Showdown involves two rounds: a video preliminary round and a final live bake-off. The winning organization will receive $1000 to donate to the charity of their choice.

The first round requires each participating organization to make a cupcake that reflects what their group is all about. The groups will make a video explaining their confection and why it is worthy of the cupcake crown. Then they will post the videos to YouTube and send the link to DHFScontest@austin.utexas.edu by Feb. 18.  After watching each video, DHFS will pick four finalists to compete in a live bake-off Feb. 27 at J2 Dining Hall where a winner will be chosen.

“We serve food to the students and they eat with us, but we want our interaction with the students to be more personal and fun,” Lindsay Gaydos, DHFS dietitian and co-leader of the Cupcake Showdown, said. 

Kathy Phan, Gaydos’s partner and marketing coordinator of DHFS, agreed that increased student participation and enthusiasm in DHFS events is the main goal of the competition, the first of its kind offered to student organizations.

Student participation is often an issue for events like the Cupcake Showdown. This is especially true if they involve sitting in a large space, watching amateur students bake for a substantial period of time. Phan and Gaydos have a plan to stimulate the crowd. 

“We’re having a food drive at the bake-off, plus a photo booth, cupcake taste testing and a ‘decorate your own cupcake’ activity to make the event more interactive,” Gaydos said.

The final bake-off requires the finalists to use a collection of secret ingredients in their final cakes, all of which are Texas-themed. The possibilities are horrifying to imagine — perhaps jalapenos or Texas BBQ. Although the latter may be mildly ridiculous, DHFS probably has some surprises up their sleeves that would make an Iron Chef cringe.

“We like challenges, so we’re really excited for this,” said Nick Marino, a UT senior and representative baker from student improv troupe Gigglepants. “Our cupcake will probably be vomit-inducing, but it’s going to look great.”

Participating groups represent a diverse cross-section of the UT population, including several nutritional and vegetarian organizations, religious communities, philanthropic sisterhoods and even a few University fraternities.

Emily Twa, a UT freshman, is representing Texas Spirits, a UT spirit and social group, for the competition. If chosen as the champion, Texas Spirits plans to donate the $1000 to either St. Louise House or the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“I love baking, so this seemed like an easy way to get Spirits involved on campus,” Twa said. “I’ll just have to bring my cutest apron and hope for the best.”

Perhaps this event is not at the intensity and danger level of The Hunger Games, but the combatant nature of UT’s on-campus clubs is sure to come out. It’s time to get out the armory of whisks and wooden spoons, there is a sweet storm brewing and undoubtedly no one will leave hungry.

Published on February 11, 2013 as "Student organizations compete in cupcake challenge". 

Freshman math and pre-med double major Alicia Sego relaxes in her San Jacinto dorm room with roomate Christina Nguyen in-between classes Tuesday afternoon. San Jacinto Residence Hall will be offering a limited number of full year contracts in the 2013-2014 school year.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The Division of Housing and Food Service (DHFS) is offering full-year contracts to incoming and returning students looking for the full on-campus living experience during the 2013-2014 school year.

The contracts are for a limited number of rooms in the San Jacinto Residence Hall. Previously, students could only sign dorm contracts through the fall and spring semesters.

DHFS decided to offer the new type of contract because of students who need a place to live during winter and summer breaks, when most other residential dorms are closed, said Laurie Mackey, director of administrative services for DHFS.

“People who don’t live here and can’t afford to go back home, or who have a job in Austin and have to work over the summer or for winter break” will likely benefit from the contract plan the most, Mackey said.

She said DHFS will be monitoring applications and available space to find out how many contracts can be offered. 

“It’s going to depend on the interest and how much space we have, and we won’t know that until probably after May 1,” Mackey said.

Students will benefit from the new contract plan if they plan to stay in the Austin area for the full year.

Piano performance freshman Yanni Chan said she had no other choice but to stay with a friend in Houston during the winter break. With plane tickets too expensive to fly back to Macau, China, she said it would have been easier if she could have stayed on campus.

“It would be a lot better because I know people who can’t get back home and they would have to spend $35 per night,” Chan said. “If the dorms were open, we wouldn’t have to worry about money or finding places to stay.”

According to DHFS, there is an option to select a full-year contract in the 2013 housing application, but because of the limited number of rooms, not all students with this preference will be offered a full-year contract.

Mackey said that students who are not offered contracts will be offered the nine-month contract and can pay separately to live on campus in the summer if they wish. 

Students who receive full-year housing contracts will move in at the same time as everyone else in August but can stay in their rooms during holidays and breaks through the fall and spring semesters.

Public relations freshman Madelynne Rodriguez recently reapplied to live in the San Jacinto Residence Hall and is hoping to receive a full-year contract.

“I feel like it makes more sense because it’s a full year,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like its overall easier and it’ll definitely take stress out of people’s lives.”

Ph. D. student Soo-hyun Yang throws away her trash in a compost bin at Littlefield Cafe.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

The UT Division of Housing and Food Service is teaming with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce its food waste by 5 percent in one year.

The department announced Friday its participation in the EPA’s national Food Recovery Challenge, which tasks participants with decreasing food waste by reducing unnecessary consumption and increasing composting and food donations to charity. The EPA estimates 34 million tons of food are wasted annually in the U.S., much of which ends up in landfills and becomes a significant source of greenhouse gases.

DHFS environmental specialist Hunter Mangrum said the department has been working to reduce food waste for many years by introducing single-stream recycling in dorms, composting, monitoring purchasing and donating over-produced food. Mangrum said it is important that UT be a leader in developing and implementing projects aimed at sustainability and waste reduction.

“In my opinion, this is a global issue, and we are a part of an institution that is globally minded. Thus, it is our responsibility and deep-rooted desire to help better humanity,” Mangrum said. “And I believe here at UT is where so much of that can be fostered, practiced and then shared with the rest of the world.”

While DHFS has not announced any new programs to ensure it meets the program’s 5 percent reduction goal, Mangrum said the resources the EPA will provide through the Food Recovery Challenge may bring added efficiency and new ideas to the department. One such resource that DHFS will use is the WasteWise Re-TRAC, a data managing and reporting system that records and tracks waste generation and reduction activities.

In participating in the Food Recovery Challenge, UT joins Rice University, Baylor University, University of Houston and UT-Arlington, becoming the fifth university in Texas to make the pledge to reduce food waste.

EPA environmental engineer Golam Mustafa said UT will be a valued participant because of its large-scale dining and food operations and the opportunity to educate students about environmental sustainability.

“The reason we are approaching universities is because it’s where our future generations will be educated,” Mustafa said. “They will be taking care of the environment. In our society we waste a lot of food because food is cheap here and it is a very small percentage of our total income compared to Third World countries.”

Mustafa said the 5 percent reduction goal is not binding, and the resources offered by the EPA will continue to be available after a year.

Collin Poirot, political communications senior and assistant director of the Campus Environmental Center, said the University’s decision to take part in the EPA program has partly to do with student advocacy for the issue. The Campus Environmental Center is a sponsored student organization that works to educate students on environmental issues and develop sustainability projects on campus.

“The fact that UT-Austin, one of the largest universities in the country, is helping to lead the way on the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge shows that the administration has listened to student concerns,” Poirot said. “More and more universities across the country are realizing that students want to live somewhere that offers them the opportunity to live sustainably.”

On a recent evening, my roommate and I were commiserating about our freshman year weight gain. We are both now juniors, and still, so to speak, working our asses off to get rid of that weight.

Of course I could blame the late night Kerbey Lane runs or the Girl Scout cookie table set up in front of PCL, but there is more to the matter than a couple of cookies here and there.

Despite earnest efforts from the Division of Housing and Food Service to inform students about the peril of the infamous Freshman 15, weight gain during freshman year of college remains a sizeable subject.

It is clear that the lack of groceries for sale and inconvenient hours of campus dining centers are to blame.

The only two cafeteria-style dining options on campus are Kinsolving Market and J2 Dining. At J2 Dining, facilities close at 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, while at Kinsolving Dining, facilities close at 7:00 p.m. These are simply not convenient hours for students with busy schedules and late afternoon classes.

The only option for evening dining is Jester City Limits, which closes at 11:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday — and for students (particularly female students) living in the Whitis area community, hiking across campus at night for dinner is not the safest option.

The wise RA would suggest keeping some healthy meals stocked in your dorm room for those occasions — more often than not in my case — when you are delayed studying past the cafeteria hours. So you head to one of the on-campus “markets” to stock up. Your fruit options: apples, bananas, oranges, and if you’re lucky, a pear. Available vegetables: carrot sticks or a prepared salad.

The Co-op Market on the Drag opened in the fall of 2011 in response to these very complaints — but it is hardly a dietary salvation to the nutrient-deprived student with its overpriced upscale yogurt and convenience store feel.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that the University Co-op took the initiative to open a grocery-ish option for on-campus students. Upon visiting the Co-op Market earlier this week, I found that they did indeed have more fruit options than the on-campus markets – they sell grapes!

The H-E-B on 41st Street is, by far, the best grocery option for on-campus students with its reasonable prices and greater selection of healthy food. But what is the point of paying for Dine-in Dollars and Bevo Bucks, as is required for on-campus students, if you don’t use them for the dining options available?

“The biggest problem for me was the payment plan,” says Cassie Shankman, a busy music student who lived at Jester and Duren dorms before moving off campus this year. “You only have so much money to allot for the year, and you have to use that carefully. Every time you go to the cafeteria it costs money just to get in, so you only go once and you load up on as much food as possible. You can’t take away food, so you’re reliant on the on-campus markets for snacks and your other meals – and there aren’t that many healthy options. Sure, you can live that way, but you’re going to gain weight.”

Weight gain is an increasingly pervasive topic on college campuses, and a sensitive one at that. The Division of Housing and Food Service and the University Health Services are already doing an outstanding job of combatting weight gain in dorm students. But there is more to be done if students are still gaining weight despite increased nutritional awareness.

One option is to place calorie labels on every food available on campus for consumption. Currently, there are no nutrition labels placed on prepared foods available in campus markets that are marketed for individual sale. Cafeterias should also place caloric values on every item available in the cafeteria. Another option is to extend cafeteria hours for those with full schedules. The DHFS could also consider an unlimited access meal plan or a numbered visit meal plan like many universities employ.

Simply put, it’s time for the Division of Housing and Food Service and the University Health Services to take some action on a problem that has become well-known on campuses across the country. We students appreciate their efforts to date — but they’re not enough.

Mathis is a musicology and English major from Denton.

Resident advisor Eileen Kao explains how single stream recycling has been implemented into the dorms. Residents now have a single blue bin for all recycling needs instead of having to sort through recycled matter between two bins.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

UT Division of Housing and Food Service is implementing single-stream recycling to encourage students and staff to dispose of waste properly.

University officials hope to decrease the campus’ trash output by commissioning a study of how waste is disposed, which will conclude by the end of the fall semester.

Karen Blaney, assistant manager in Campus Planning and Facilities Management, said UT produced 140,000 pounds of trash per week, but only 66,400 pounds of recyclable waste per week during the spring semester.

“We have some work to do,” Blaney said.

She said the University will advertise its proposal for the study to contractors in the next few weeks.

Blaney said the study will analyze, among other factors, how much recyclable material is being disposed of in trash bins instead of recycling bins, and how much food waste is being disposed of in trash and recycle bins instead of being composted.

She said the contractor will analyze the waste output from academic and administrative facilities, and will include the athletics department and University Unions, if those departments decide to participate in the study.

Last spring, the Division of Housing and Food Service implemented a recycling program that provides two waste bins in residential halls: one for trash and one for paper, plastic and aluminum waste.

Scott Meyer, director of dining services at DHFS, oversees the division’s sustainability initiatives and said on-campus residence halls originally provided three cans for waste disposal: one for trash, one for paper waste and one for plastic and aluminum waste.

Meyer said he hopes consolidating recycling bins will encourage students and staff to recycle more frequently because they do not have to sort waste themselves.

Social work freshman Adilene Muñoz lives in Jester Center and said she does not currently recycle, but that single-stream recycling bins may encourage her to do so.

“I guess I’m just lazy about it,” she said.