By Olwethu Boso
Do you treat food and eating with respect? Do you think about where your food comes from, the hands that planted it and harvested it, the soil, sun and rain that nourished it, how it’s packaged and processed? Do you think about what it it’s doing in your body; if it’s helping or harming your well-being?
We all have a relationship with food, conscious or not. Maybe yours is respectful, or maybe it’s mindless, or filled with animosity or fear.
When it comes to dining hall food, I think my relationship with food does fall under the latter and so do some of my peers in the residence/dining hall system.
So in this series, I will be undertaking to find out where our dining hall food comes from. Call it a food journey of some sort.
This week, I spoke to Simon Wright, the Assistant Manager from the Rhodes University Food Services office to get a breakdown of how our food is approved and who supplies the food.
- Every year a tender process happens, once a tender has been awarded it goes on for a year, so that students are charged a standard price throughout the year, which means no inflation of meal prices during the year.
- A prerequisite to tendering, is that all fresh produce (milk, eggs, vegetables, fruit, bread and meat) must be within a 70 km radius of Rhodes University, this is to allow for ‘top-ups’ during the day as fresh produce is delivered more than once a day.
- Frozen goods and canned stuff can be further than 70 km, such as East London and Port Elizabeth because frequent delivery is not necessary and they still need to do sourcing based on the price request set.
“The actual menu was developed in 2005 but we tweak it every year,” says Wright. The tweaks are based on the feedback the Food Services office gets from the residence Food/Entertainment Representatives, who filter what students in their residences have to say about certain meals.
After the menu has been assessed by Mrs Jay Pillay, the Deputy Director of Residential Operations, who has a qualification in nutrition, it then gets assessed by a dietician in Port Elizabeth. Dr Rene Smalberger assesses the menu to assure that balance in the menu is kept according to what an active student of ages between 18-25 is required to consume on a daily basis.