UC Merced making changes after students share concerns over school lunches

The university's kitchen staff produces about 8,000 meals a day.

Brittany Jacob Image
Friday, April 14, 2023
UC Merced making changes after students share concerns over school lunches
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Some UC Merced students said they have discovered hair, bugs, and maggots in their school meals.

MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Hair, bugs, and even maggots -- that's what some UC Merced students said they discovered in their school meals last spring.

Now, the university says it has improved its food quality after several pictures were posted on social media calling out the issue.

Pavilion Dining Executive Chef Matthew Perez is stepping out of the kitchen to get feedback from students regarding the food on campus.

This comes after some UC Merced students took to social media to share pictures of their not-so-edible entrees from last year.

When the university became aware of the complaints, they acknowledged that there could be improvements.

"We are not out of the woods, but I think we've come a lot further than where we were," Perez said.

The university's kitchen staff produces about 8,000 meals a day.

Chef Perez said they had been understaffed and had issues retaining qualified employees.

After many conversations and town halls, they are now aware of the problem and doing everything in their power to address concerns.

"More quality checks, making sure that we are providing more training, just meeting with them, talking to them, validating them, not deflecting, not diffusing. 'Hey, I agree with you. Let's work together to fix this,'" Perez said.

Students Dmitriy Filimonov and Nick Pinto said they're happy to see the improvements.

"The quality of food has somewhat improved. Obviously, there are still a lot of things to get further. I would say so far, it's looking good," Filimonov said.

But Pinto said he moved off campus, partly because of the food quality and limited dining options due to the university's secluded location.

"The real reason why people complain is that everyone is stuck here. The campus is like a 15-minute drive away from anything else in town, and a lot of people who live on campus don't even have cars. The bus is like 50 minutes to get to downtown," said Pinto.

Anthony Pangelina, the executive chef at the Yablokoff-Wallace Dining Center (YWDC), said he's been focusing on new and creative ideas like themed meals representing the school's diverse population.

"We are trying to get inclusion from a lot of the campus life groups, we have an opportunity, and we met with a lot of different cultures, and they are bringing us their ideas, and we are expanding on that," Pangelina said.

The dining services team wants to continue to improve its operations and welcomes your questions or concerns about your experience.

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