Student workers dissatisfied with conditions at Ryan Field concession stands

Junnie Kwon, Reporter

Some students who have worked at Ryan Field concession stands are now telling potential customers to avoid buying the food.

Northwestern’s primary food and facilities management services provider, Sodexo, Inc., hires student organizations to prepare and sell food at sports games. Some students who have worked in the booths are suspicious of the level of food sanitation regulation.

“The only thing they care about is how much money you make and how little you waste,” said Jane Jones, a McCormick junior. “If something falls on the floor or seems like it can be used again and it’s pretty sanitary, they’re totally fine with that.”

Jones, who worked concessions with the NU Sailing Team, recalls finding dead birds around the booth area and in between storage boxes of food twice early last fall. The team has worked at a booth every home football game in the past several seasons and continues to work at games this year.

“We put (the bird) in a cup to get rid of it somewhere, because we don’t even have trash cans really,” she said. “They got mad that we used the cups, not even that there was a dead bird.”

Sodexo Sports & Leisure, a division of the food service company, claims to uphold strict sanitation requirements. Regional manager Steve Sena. said every booth is equipped with hand sanitizer, window glass cleaner, degreaser, quat sanitizer to clean surfaces and a hand washing station. The Evanston Health Department goes to Ryan Field six times each year to inspect every booth.

“They give us a report for the stands,” Sena said.

He added that during every visit, the health department starts their inspections when doors open for football games, and that the booths passed the health department’s standards with “flying colors” at Saturday’s home game against Nebraska. He said people were wearing their hats and gloves and the food was prepared at the proper temperature.

“The groups have been absolutely phenomenal here,” Sena said. “All very good about their gloves.”

Every booth has a designated Sodexo supervisor who makes sure all regulations are followed. However, some students say the supervisors often ignore infractions, especially during halftime, when business is the busiest.

“I have served food without gloves,” said Khari Shelton, Communication sophomore. “You kind of just forego certain regulations in order to keep up with demand … You hear that a lot: Don’t worry, it’s fine, we’ll fix it later.”

Shelton, a Daily staffer, worked at Ryan Field this fall on Sept. 15 and Oct. 20 with members of The Dolphin Show. He said despite the infractions, he felt confident that the food was still servible.

Stand attendants are given one complimentary meal consisting of one hot dog and one small drink. Some, like Shelton, feel comfortable enough with the food preparation to eat it, but others, like Jones, vow to steer clear of concession stands outside of work.

“You’re there for like eight hours, so you get really hungry,” Jones said. “It’s almost embarrassing when you get hungry enough to eat their food.”