Wits EFF victory for hungry students

The Student Affairs (DSA) office at Wits University has responded to the pleas from the Wits EFF to feed hungry students on campus. On April 17, members of the student organisation stormed the main dining hall on campus to take surplus food for hungry students after, they claimed, students had contacted them for assistance. In response the office of Dr Pamela Dube, the Dean of Students, has responded with positive solutions.

Wits EFF chairperson, Vuyani Pambo told Wits Vuvuzela that his organisation is quite happy with the solutions being implemented: “That is the victory that the action got.”

During the dining hall incident, members of Wits EFF chanted that “Students cannot achieve academic excellence on an empty stomach”.

According to the DSA, some of the solutions include:
• The provision of an online form which a needy student has to complete before receiving assistance; So far, 17 students have benefitted from this resolution.
• A needy student is allocated 10 meals from the dining hall then provided with a meal pack from the Wits Food Bank run by the Wits Citizenship and Community Outreach (WCCO), depending on the individual needs of the student. The Food Bank packs contain Stop Hunger Now meal packs.

The DSA says it is also in discussions with the SRC (Student Representatives Council) and Bhakti Yoga society about getting hot meals twice a week from the Hare Krishna Movement, who will soon set up a kitchen at Constitution Hill to feed the hungry local residents. The Wits Food Bank is also planning to work with the national Food Sovereignty Campaign to possibly establish food gardens on campus.

Pambo called on fellow students and staff to donate non-perishable food to help those in need.

RoyalMnandi pumps up food safety awareness

Vomiting, bloody diarrhoea, and fever. These are some of the symptoms of food poisoning that students were taught to identify at the main dining hall’s food safety awareness session on Tuesday.

The event, hosted by RoyalMnandi and the Wits Services Department, was aimed at informing students about food safety procedures.

This took place after recent incidents of hygiene issues in the main dining hall in the Matrix.

KEEP YOUR HANDS CLEAN: Students scan their hands for germs before having a meal at the dining hall.  Photo: Dineo Bendile

KEEP YOUR HANDS CLEAN: Students scan their hands for germs before having a meal at the dining hall.
Photo: Dineo Bendile

Main dining hall a repeat offender

In April the Wits Vuvuzela published an article about a student who had found a worm in her burger. In May, another student reported she was ill after eating a meal from the main dining hall. Both students claimed that RoyalMnandi had not been very helpful in addressing their problems. These reports informed the dining hall’s decision to host the food safety session.

Operations administrator  at the main dining hall, Bontle Mogapi said that informing individual students about food safety did not benefit the broader student community, who could face similar situations or have queries in future. Mogapi said students were not aware of the responsibility they had towards food safety.

“It’s the little things that you see them doing in the dining hall that made us realise that they really do not know about personal hygiene and just the general hygiene of food handling,” she said.

Students were given a booklet detailing the difference between food poisoning and food illness and highlighting the importance of hand hygiene.

GERM DETECTION: Students were shocked at the amount of germs carried on their hands.  Photo:Dineo Bendile

GERM DETECTION: Students were shocked at the amount of germs carried on their hands.
Photo:Dineo Bendile

Testing their knowledge

Students were given a quiz to showcase their knowledge of food safety procedures.  A lucky draw gave students the opportunity to win prize hampers.

Ashlan Raju, 3rd year BAccSci, was grateful that the dining hall finally had the session.

“They don’t use gloves at the main dining hall. So I found that as a problem, but now they kind of make us aware of why they don’t use gloves, which I think is quite a good thing to do,” Raju said.

The results from a study, reviewed during the session, showed that staff members who did not wear gloves were inclined to sanitise their hands on a regular basis.

Wearing gloves gave a false sense of security as glove fragments could end up in food and undetected holes in gloves could release bacteria from moist hands into food.

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Food scare sample tested

The discovery of a worm in a burger at the Wits main dining hall reported in Wits Vuvuzela last week was not a unique find, although the university claims incidents like this are rare.

There have been previous food scare alerts – about one every six to nine months. Last year, a worm was found on a piece of broccoli at Jubilee Hall, said Joanne Rowan, deputy director of Wits Catering and Retail.

However, Rowan said very few of these incidents happen.

Rowan was at the dining hall when the most recent worm was found and said the type of worm found was not associated with vegetables.

“It’s the first time that I see that type of worm.” [pullquote align=”right”]”It happened. We can’t deny it.”[/pullquote]

Rowan was speaking at the opening of the Convocation dining hall on West Campus on Tuesday.

Last week, Wits Vuvuzela reported that a student had discovered a worm in her chicken burger at the main dining hall.

An investigation to discover where the chicken burger came from has been launched. A food sample has been sent for testing.

Rowan said it was part of the catering business that a few incidents like this did occur.  “It happened. We can’t deny it. It’s part of reality.  We have to deal with it.”

She said that, of the reported incidents of food contamination at Wits so far, tests had shown the food samples were not dangerous.

[pullquote]“It is not possible that you can 100 percent not have an incident like that.”[/pullquote]Rowan defended food safety at Wits and said the university’s four dining halls were Hazardous Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) certified, making Wits the only university in Africa to have the certification.

The certification means contamination in food served at Wits can be traced through the supply chain, all the way to a farmer.

Rowan said she expected to have a report on the recent food scare soon.

Prof Tawana Kupe, deputy vice chancellor (finance and operations), said the worm was “unfortunate”.

“It is not possible that you can 100% not have an incident like that,” Kupe said.

He said the university should take steps to ensure the problem was not commonplace and food quality standards were maintained.

Kupe said samples of food dished out in the dining halls were kept over a number of days so they could be tested for contamination.

The university does not make all the food, with some of it bought pre-prepared.  Kupe said food providers should be asked whether they were supplying the university with fresh food and there should be an independent means of checking the quality.

 

Refurbished dining hall for Res students

The new dining hall can seat up to 450 people. Students can choose to sit at the bar-like area, att ables or on the new benches.

The new dining hall can seat up to 450 people. Students can choose to sit at the bar-like area, at tables or on the new benches. Photo: Provided.

Convocation dining hall is the second dining hall on Wits campus that recently underwent a face-lift.

The dining hall has been refurbished in a more contemporary style with views of the surrounding grounds, and a wider variety of food.

After the final refurbishments have been completed, the renovations will amount to approximately R5,6 million of which half was funded by the South African government and the other half by Wits alumni. Catering provider RoyalMnandi invested a R1 million in equipment for the facility.

Part of having a good education is not only having excellent lecturers, lecturing facilities and good accommodation, but also having access to excellent catering facilities and extramural facilities, said Professor Tawana Kupe, deputy vice-chancellor of finance and operations, during the official opening of the hall.

“You can’t be an excellent student if you are not in good health. And you can’t be in good health if you don’t have a good nutrition. And you can’t have good nutrition in a terrible facility where you are looking at the back of a dilapidated building.”

Kupe said the refurbished dining hall is the kind of standard the university wants, with a nice, open environment, good architecture and good nutrition.

“What you eat and what you see is bon appetit.”

Director of Services, Theresa Main said the aim of the Wits service department is to create an “eat safe campus” and to ensure that a safe eating environment is monitored.

“We are enhancing the dining environment and simultaneously enhancing the food variety.”

The menu items at the dining hall now include pizzas, pastas, stirfry’s and a chicken rotisserie. The hall currently has a seating capacity of 450, but outdoor wooden decks will be built next to the hall to accommodate another 50 seats.

Free wi-fi has been installed and soon, big TV screens for students to watch what they please will follow said Joanne Rowan, deputy director of catering and retail. Students can also take their music and ask for it to be played in the hall.

Rowan said the dining hall has never had a food scare and emphasised that the standards in the dining halls are the same.

Rowan said  she has received positive feedback from the students. “They enjoy the dining hall. They actually spend time sitting here. It’s inviting. Students can socialize with each other.”

Rowan said she hoped that the hall would be used for future student events. “I think it will become a popular place.”

Carl Msiza (BComm Honours in Development Economics), eats at the Convocation dining hall twice a day. Msiza said the new dining hall is “definitely better” than the main dining hall.

“It’s got an ambience.” When asked about the food he said: “ It’s better than most Royal Mnandi dining halls and the staff are extremely friendly.”

Vice chairperson of the David Webster Residence, Innocentia Kgaphola is happy with the change in food variety and said students are more social in the dining hall.

But she said some students believe the standards are not the same and have voiced concerns over the pricing.

“I still believe there’s always room for improvement.”

Food scare opens a can of worms

THE WITS main dining hall has come under the spotlight following the discovery of a worm in a burger last week.A second year accounting student discovered the worm after she bit into her chicken burger.

The student, a house-committee member at one residence, was having lunch at the main dining hall on East Campus when she discovered the worm in her food.

The meal had gotten off to a bad start when soon after receiving her food she realised that the burger roll was too dry to eat.

Despite this, the student said that she was hungry and decided to eat the burger patty. That’s when she discovered the worm.

“I thought maybe it’s a dead piece of lettuce or something,” she said. “then it started wiggling and I was like, ‘No! Lettuce does not move!’.”

She reported the worm to a staff member of the catering company, RoyalMnandi, and was later joined by the dining hall’s operations administrator, Bontle Mogapi, who took picture evidence of the contaminated food.

“And then they offered me a lousy fruit-pack,” said the student.

RoyalMnandi could not be reached for comment.

 

 

Joanne Rowan, deputy director of catering and retail, said in cases of food security alerts, such as a student finding a foreign object in their food, the matter would immediately be brought to the service provider’s attention. “We have never had a test come back positive for the presence of food illness causing micro-organisms in our food,” she said.

 

RoyalMnandi began servicing the Wits main dining hall in 2012. Students took to the dining hall’s Facebook page to express excitement at the change of caterer and the newly renovated eating space.

 

But students said standards have since dropped and they are unhappy with the current state of the service provider. One affected student, Dominic Khumalo, recently published a copy of his letter to the vice-chancellor, Prof Adam Habib, on Facebook. In this letter he said students were unhappy with the declining quality of food and services at the facility.

 

Khumalo claimed that students were impressed with RoyalMnandi during their first four weeks of service in 2012.

 

But he said the food was of poor quality and the portions were small. “The money we pay per meal is more than R30 and the service we receive is tantamount to R10.”

dineo@witsvuvuzela.com