When students returned from Christmas break, many were shocked to find Bear Necessities, better known as the c-store, closed. A sign on the door promised new changes ahead. About a week later, the store re-opened with a new system of organization, newly painted walls, a decreased selection of options, no more meal swipes and a suggestion box. Where did all of the changes come from, and why so quickly?
Terri Mathis, Director of Food Services, explained that the c-store had changed from what was both originally planned for the store and what is in both university and Sodexo contracts. “The way it was being run was not within the constraints of our contracts,” she said. The use of meal swipes especially had evolved from what was originally intended when the store opened. Despite attempts to move toward fresh and healthy options, students seemed to be most content with using prepackaged food as part of a swipe.
Mathis explained that, because of the prices of these food options and the unhealthy factor, meal swipes had to be cut. “The way hat the meal plan is structured…it’s not meant to include retail items,” she added.
She went on to explain that the items in the store had become so varied that it was difficult to keep inventory. “It was hard to track what was popular and not,” she explained.
After discussions with Student Senate, the decision was made to empty the store and begin again. “What we did over break was try to get back to the basics and start fresh,” Mathis said. Though the c-store started out with a small selection of items, new items have been and will be added just about every week. The first things to be returned were milk and bread, followed by some microwave food options. Soon, some of the convenience items, such as laundry soap, will likely be returning to the store.
“We’re trying to please as many people as we can,” Mathis said. She said that suggestions already given by students are being seriously considered, and that students should continue to send suggestions for the store to either Student Senate or Mathis herself.
One major concern that has already been addressed was the desire for healthier items. Since the idea behind the changed meal swipe options during fall semester will meant to bring healthier options, many students were surprised to see “junk food” in the c-store (items like pop and candy bars were the first in the store).
In response, a line of healthier items opened last Sunday. These items included Naked Juice, fresh fruit, hummus and granola bars.
“We’re trying to get a good mix of healthy and not-so-healthy snack options,” said Mathis. She encouraged students to watch for new items in the future, such as cheese and chili pumps for nachos and possibly sushi. She added that all suggestions are welcome and will be weighed as to whether they will accommodate one person or many.
“We’ll have to kind of weigh the popularity of those options,” Mathis said. “We’re working to bring [choices] back.”
Overall, Mathis clarified that the intention of the changes is not to upset students, but to have a more consistent and efficient store. She explained that, in the long run, Food Services hopes to help students use more of their points.
Though the changes in the c-store have had the largest reaction, changes are also coming to Northern on Main (NOM) and White Bear. NOM has started having two specials each week, both of which are on display in the café and on Facebook and Twitter. It is also under new management. The new manager, Dee, is a former manager of Panera Bread. She is helping to bring new changes, and is open to any student suggestions.
White Bear has already added new flat screen televisions to display the menu. However, starting in the near future, a new line, “Pastabilities,” will be added. This line, as the name suggests, will feature pasta and toppings that can be purchased for a meal swipe. Students can also choose to add meat for points added on to the pasta swipe (“swipe plus”). Each day, the line will feature a choice between two pastas, several vegetables, a couple of sauces and optional protein choices.
Finally, Mathis hinted that students should be sure to stop by Mac for lunch on Feb. 17 for a fun promotion for which both ONU’s President and First Lady will be present.
To submit suggestions for any of ONU’s dining facilities, contact Student Senate or Terri Mathis.