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On-campus catering policy formalized, still developing

Though still in the process of refinement, Concordia has begun to enforce stricter rules upon catering activities, specifically in regard to outside caterers.

“It’s not technically a new policy — this policy has been in practice for a number of years,” said Roger Olson, director of Concordia’s risk management department, who teamed up with Janet Paul, director of Dining Services, to formalize an outside catering policy. “We want it to accomplish the food safety of the college, but still not be a hindrance to people.”

The brief policy, which falls under Clay County food regulations, states that Concordia “retains the right to oversee and regulate the production and service of food and beverages on its property and within its facilities.” This means any public events held on campus must be catered by Concordia College unless otherwise approved or made exempt through the policy, which allows some leeway for potlucks, fundraisers and events involving donated food. A full copy of the policy can be found at Concordia’s risk management page.

Olson said the policy doesn’t apply to internal group gatherings, that is, if a student or faculty group wanted to have an on-campus event with food from an off-campus provider, like a pizza party, they could. However, they would not be allowed to host that event for the public. As a general rule, any foods that need preparing — foods that need cooking, freezing, preserving — must be served by Concordia catering or must be approved ahead of time, but prepackaged foods such as store-bought cookies can be served to the public.

Paul and Olson said they decided to formalize and enforce the food policy after an off-campus caterer with poor food quality records hosted an event on campus. They later found out about other questionable events featuring off-campus food providers.

“There have been some events that were publicly oriented that could have potentially gone bad,” Paul said. “Things were really unsafe.”

Olson said they left the policy vague, hoping to get the main point across to students and faculty. In doing so, they hope to make the policy more detailed as questions arise on a case-by-case basis.

“You can try to develop policies that attempt to have impact on every single scenario, but that becomes a 10-page policy,” Olson said.

Garrett Horejsi, Campus Entertainment Commission’s lead commissioner, said the formalized policy greatly complicates the coordination process of on-campus events. The process of working through Concordia’s catering service may be safer, but it also costs more. He said groups like CEC and Homecoming Committee may avoid serving food altogether.

“They said they made [the policy] intentionally vague so they can work through this,” Horejsi said. “I get the impression it’s vague so they can control what they want.”

Horejsi said he once had to pay catering extra money to pick up Sandy’s Donuts, though CEC could’ve easily picked them up themselves. Likewise, he said purchasing prepackaged foods proved more expensive, even though the product could easily be purchased without the middle man.

Olson said he expected such push-back early on, but eventually on-campus groups will become comfortable with the policy. Likewise, Paul said the policy isn’t a monopolization of campus hosting, but an expected responsibility of the college.

“If you go to a place with catering on site, they require you to use their in-house person,” Paul said, mentioning the policy’s similarity to the policies of hotels and other colleges. “It’s not ironclad, just follow these guidelines. It’s not intended to be a killjoy.”

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