New Food Vendor, New Problems

Former workers say food service on campus is handled unprofessionally.

Anoka-Ramsey+community+members+sitting+in+the+Riverside+Cafe+on+the+Coon+Rapids+campus.+Aladdin+Food+Services+supplies+the+food+for+this+cafe.+

Ivan Lopez-Kne

Anoka-Ramsey community members sitting in the Riverside Cafe on the Coon Rapids campus. Aladdin Food Services supplies the food for this cafe.

By Tatiana Avila, Anoka-Ramsey Community College - Coon Rapids

Note: This story was reported on and written prior to the State of Minnesota’s closing of schools due to COVID-19.

Former food service workers on the Coon Rapids campus have concerns about the way food is handled by Aladdin Food Services. Aladdin serves food in the Riverside Cafe and Coffee Kiosk & Grill.   

The Coon Rapids campus contract with Lancer Hospitality expired at the end of the spring 2019 semester. Aladdin, formally named A’viands, started its contract in fall 2019. Both Aladdin and Lancer are owned by Elior North America.  

A student worker, Terra Stevenson, came to The Campus Eye about her experiences working for Aladdin early in the fall semester of 2019. She previously worked under Lancer for two and a half years. 

Ivan Lopez-Kne
Aladdin Food Services supplies the food for this kiosk.

Stevenson’s main concerns were with Aladdin’s management and their directions on handling soup, re-using pizza boxes and changing expiration dates. 

These concerns were verified through recordings of her co-workers’ claims and through The Campus Eye speaking with another employee. Everyone that spoke to The Campus Eye asked to remain anonymous for fear of job retaliation. 

“I couldn’t go to sleep. This has been on my mind,” Stevenson said when The Campus Eye first sat down with her to discuss her personal concerns. 

There have been multiple accounts of people getting sick after eating the soup provided by Aladdin. “I had the chili for lunch in the cafeteria, and that same night my stomach was bubbling, and I was up all night with diarrhea” a student, recorded by Stevenson, said.

On Feb. 21 a faculty member at Anoka-Ramsey ate the soup and stated in a text shown to The Campus Eye, that they had “Big regrets about lunch. Huge. I did have to use the restroom several times after lunch.” 

Stevenson said that Aladdin’s soup is reheated multiple times and mixed with other soups. “They’ll reheat it again and again,” Stevenson said in a recording. ”And again and again until it’s gone,” one of her coworkers added.  

“She’s going to buy soup from KwikTrip and adding the soup, the one she just make yesterday [sic]. That’s not okay to go to the gas station to get soup…that’s not professional,” a co-worker said in a recording. At the time of the recording the soup was supposed to last two and a half weeks. 

According to an email from Daniel Mayers, the Aladdin district manager, “Ninety-nine percent of the time, we make soup the day of or for the next day… [soup] can be reheated once.” 

The heated soup containers at the Riverside Cafe on the Coon Rapids campus. Aladdin Food Services supplies the soup.

According to Stevenson, the former Lancer manager on the Coon Rapids campus, Sandy Kolanda, made new soup every day. Stevenson had other concerns as well, apart from the preparation of the food. She was also concerned about how the food was being transported. 

“[Management] wanted us to save pizza boxes after they were giving [the pizza] out,” one of Stevenson’s co-workers said in a recording. Management had ordered the student workers to save the pizza boxes, so they could be used again later. 

Michelle Ditter, the Aladdin manager at the Coon Rapids campus, verified this. According to Ditter, Aladdin was out of pizza boxes and needed to transport some pizzas. The website they order pizza boxes from was down, so they couldn’t order more, Ditter said.

According to Ditter it’s not sanitary to transport uncovered pizzas so they put them in the used boxes only for transportation.  

Stevenson initially talked to The Campus Eye because workers were being instructed to change dates on food. Stevenson said she also witnessed Ditter lying about the dates. Ditter told Robert Perez, Anoka-Ramsey’s auxiliary operation manager, that the date on meat appeared incorrect because the marker had smeared.  

“She’s lying; I wrote that like last Thursday, and today is Tuesday,” Stevenson explained. 

We also have independently verified the claim that they were asked to change dates with another student worker. According to Stevenson, Ditter told workers to change the dates on food before the health inspector arrived. 

After employees talked with Ditter and Perez about their concerns, some chose to leave Aladdin. Stevenson’s co-worker, who told her about the mixing of soups, put in her two weeks’ notice in December. Before the two weeks ended, the worker was asked by local Aladdin management to not return to work.

“She had already put in her two weeks’ notice, because she says she doesn’t trust them, and didn’t like working with them… she got this [text] message,” Stevenson said. The message, shown to The Campus Eye, told the co-worker not to come back, even though she still had a couple of days left to work. 

Stevenson’s has also left her job. “I didn’t quit before I could tell them I’m not coming back. I was told the first day of spring semester that I don’t work there any more by other people including staff that was looking for me,” Stevenson said. 

Food service is currently shut down on campus in conjunction with state-wide school closures. Food service will be closed through the spring semester.

 

This story was originally published on The Campus Eye on April 27, 2020.