Eatery dishwasher back in service, students still using plastic utensils

The+entrance+to+The+Eatery+in+the+basement+of+Litchfield+Towers.

Patrick Cavanagh | Staff Photographer

The entrance to The Eatery in the basement of Litchfield Towers.

By Alexandra Ross, Staff Writer

When Troy Barlow went to the Eatery in early October, he saw a stack of paper plates instead of the usual reusable ones. But he said this was a welcome change because he didn’t have to worry about finding food remnants on his plate. 

Barlow, along with numerous other students, continued using disposable plates every time he went to the Eatery for the next month. For about three weeks in October, the Eatery — Pitt’s main dining hall — stopped using reusable dishware and silverware because the dishwasher was shut down. Students dining at the Eatery ate their meals with paper plates, paper or plastic cups and plastic utensils, leading to concerns over sustainability. 

While the dishwasher was fixed by Oct. 25, the dining hall still wasn’t entirely back to normal by November. Meredith Rosenberg, a spokesperson for Compass Group, Pitt’s dining contractor, said the company took The Eatery’s dishwasher out of service for maintenance from Oct. 4 through Oct. 24, and on Nov. 3 said the Eatery would bring back reusable plates soon. But she didn’t offer an explanation as to why the disposable plates were still in use.

“While we have reintroduced the reusable cups, bowls and utensils we are still using disposable plates but will be back to using the reusable very soon,” Rosenberg said.

But on Nov. 5, The Pitt News saw that most stations at the Eatery were serving reusable plates and bowls, but still using disposable utensils and paper cups. 

Students said The Eatery faced other issues before Compass took the dishwasher out of service. Barlow, a junior mathematics-economics major, who eats at the Eatery once a day, said before the switch to disposable products on Oct. 4, he found issues with the cleanliness of plates, cups and silverware. He said the dishes being served to students were not completely cleaned at that time.

“The plates had kind of specks on them sometimes, the cups would have specks on them,” Barlow said. “Sometimes it’d be food. With the cups though, sometimes it’d be white blotches.”

This echoed other students’ complaints on social media that a significant portion of supposedly clean dishes at the Eatery were covered in smears or had food encrusted on them. Rosenberg said no “used” dishes or plates were served to students at the Eatery at any point.

“At no time were guests served used dishware in the dining hall,” Rosenberg said. 

Danielle McDonald, a first-year bioengineering major, said she did not notice any issues, such as dirtiness, with the reusable dishes and silverware before the temporary switch to plastic and paper products. McDonald said she tries to avoid eating at The Eatery whenever possible, because she prefers using her meal exchanges. 

“They were all cleaned,” McDonald said. “I felt safe using them.”

McDonald said one problem she did see was that silverware was often unavailable, especially commonly used utensils such as forks. But Barlow said the switch to disposable utensils alleviated this problem. 

“The big problem before was that you could never get silverware,” Barlow said. “They were taking a really long time for it to come out, and when they did come out sometimes they were dirty. So in that way, plastic silverware has been more convenient.”

McDonald said she is concerned that the use of disposable products will increase the amount of waste produced at The Eatery. 

“I feel like we’re really wasting a lot with the plates and cups and stuff,” McDonald said. 

To accommodate the new increase in waste, five extra trash cans and one recycling bin were seen by The Pitt News on Oct. 20 in the area where students usually drop off their used dishes. 

Trash and cleaning supplies left at the food waste station at The Eatery in Litchfield Towers on Oct. 20. (Alexandra Ross | Contributing Writer )

The Eatery has faced other struggles this year, according to McDonald. She said there was a sign posted on the soft drink machines recently which explained that a carbon dioxide shortage temporarily prevented the dining hall from serving soda. 

“It’s not a big deal to me, but they are out of stuff a lot, like the drinks,” McDonald said. “Apparently there was a CO2 shortage or something, so they didn’t really have soda. Also, I can never really get milk.” 

Rosenberg said the lack of available soda was due to a shortage of carbon dioxide delivery drivers.

“Our CO2 vendor was experiencing a shortage in delivery drivers which is causing a delay in getting the machines operational,” Rosenberg said. “We encourage any guests if they do not see any of the self-service items they are looking for to ask a manager, supervisor or chef for assistance. We are currently not experiencing any shortages in milk product.”

McDonald said she hopes to see the Eatery return to normal with reusable plates soon.

“If they were able to, I feel like they should definitely go back,” McDonald said.

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