No nutritional information found in cafeteria

Students on campus want to know what is in their food, where it from and if it's healthy to eat. (Niko LaBarbera | Lariat)

Students on campus want to know what is in their food, where it from and if it’s healthy to eat. (Niko LaBarbera | Lariat)

The mystery surrounding Saddleback College’s cafeteria food has been an ongoing question for a long time on campus.

In October of 2013 the Lariat took on the project of trying to acquire information about the cafeteria’s management, as well as the nutritional values of the food itself, however it was not provided with efficient information that would suggest making the nutritional value of the food items easily accessible to students.

At the time, the Lariat openly stated in the article its frustration with both the cafeteria and the Student Health Center for not being able to provide them with any nutritional information even after weeks of aggressively pursuing the topic.

In the end, the article stated that the only thing the Lariat was provided with was a nutritional value chart that was part of a proposal from S&B Foods, the company that was in charge of overseeing the cafeteria, when they bid Saddleback for services in 2012.

The chart was extremely unhelpful as it only provided information about a select few items with questionable accuracy.

Also, the owner of S&B Foods told the Lariat in 2013 that although he had provided food to fourteen different colleges he had never once been asked to provide nutritional information before.

He also told the Lariat he was capable of calculating nutritional information for his products and that he would make that information available to the Lariat Staff and for Saddleback as well.

This brings the issue to the present, and unfortunately, the mystery still has not been solved.

If students wish to know what they are putting in their stomachs, it seems the college’s cafeteria should be on their list of places to avoid when considering where to eat.

If a student were to currently ask a staff member at the cafeteria to provide any nutritional value about the food served there, he or she would still be given the response that none could be provided to them.

The cafeteria itself, aside from the staff, still shows no clear indication that any changes have been made either.

The food is still being packaged mostly in clear, non-labeled containers that give nothing away besides the small printed lettering on top stating simply what the meal is. Not even the ingredients are to be found, less likely any information about the nutritional value of the contents.

After visiting the Associated Student Government, who couldn’t divulge any information, the Lariat was redirected to Student Development, which could only provide the information that the cafeteria is a privately run entity and to contact the Grants and Contracts manager Roxanne Metz.

Before stating she would be out of the office for the entire next week, she gave the small piece of information that S&B Foods still operates the cafeteria.

After trying vigorously to get in contact with multiple individuals in supervising positions over operations of the school cafeteria and the food it serves through both calls and emails, the Lariat was able to gain no new information and came to the conclusion that no new nutritional charts had been produced since the initial article and nothing has changed within the cafeteria itself.

“I don’t look forward to having to eat in the school cafeteria because it doesn’t make me feel like I’m eating well,” said Vincenzo Liberatore, a music major music, 20. “It would help a lot to have nutritional facts about what we’re eating and be provided with more nutritionally dominant food.”

Students have a right to know what they are eating, the nutritional value of the food and if it is healthy to be consuming.

However, it seems this opportunity is being vastly overlooked due to its inability to ensure students what is is they are actually eating.

“The cafeteria is so convenient but with places like Nekter close by, it’s just as convenient and way healthier to eat there,” Alex Themm, liberal arts, 19, said.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, school cafeterias are covered by the “final rule” which states that calorie and other nutrition labeling is to be required for standard menu items offered, only if certain criteria are met.

First, the establishment must be a retail food establishment, be part of a chain of 20 or more locations, be doing business under the same name, and offering substantially the same menu items.

Curious about this information, the Lariat was able to contact DJ Sanchez, the manager of a very popular Southern Orange County restaurant, Lucille’s Smokehouse BBQ in Lake Forest.

“We follow the same guidelines, even restaurants like ours aren’t required to provide guests with nutritional information,” Sanchez said. “That information will only need to be provided once we open our 21st store in the upcoming future.”

Restaurants aside, it does not seem likely that cafeterias will be able to meet these same requirements listed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and that gaining nutritional information will be a rare luxury provided to students only if the businesses running the cafeteria wish to divulge that information.