News | Student Life

Nutella in Ferris Booth costs Dining $5,000 per week, in part due to dining hall thievery

  • SPREADING IT THIN | Stephan Adamow, CC '15, takes Nutella at Ferris Booth Commons. Thievery of the tempting treat has been rampant, administrators say.

It seems like undergrads have a sweet tooth—and it’s costing Dining $5,000 per week in Nutella.

Since Dining started offering the sweet spread in Ferris Booth Commons last month, administrators have observed a high demand for Nutella—up to 100 pounds per day. But that seemly sum could be due in part to students stealing the chocolate-hazelnut topping.

“The demand [for Nutella] has been greater than originally expected,” Vicki Dunn, executive director of Dining Services, said in an email. “Students have been filling cups of Nutella to-go in Ferris Booth Commons and taking the full jars out of John Jay, which means we’re going through product faster than anticipated.”

Dunn told Columbia College Student Council representatives that the total spent on Nutella came to $5,000 the week it was first offered in Ferris the week of Feb. 11, representative Peter Bailinson, CC ’16 and a Spectator outreach and development associate, said. Dunn “couldn’t really believe it either, just how much they were going through the stuff,” Bailinson said. At that rate, Dining would spend $250,000 on the product in one year.

Dunn declined to comment on how much Dining spends on specific foods in the dining halls.

Ferris Booth Commons serves between 2,400 and 3,000 students per day, and John Jay serves between 2,200 and 2,600, according to Dunn.

The problem, said CCSC representative Grayson Warrick, CC ’16, who was also in the meeting with Dunn, is that many people are taking Nutella out of the dining hall and letting it go to waste.

Dining hall waste has increased in the past year: The fall of 2012 was the most wasteful semester since Ferris eliminated trays, according to Bailinson and Warrick. And at the last “plate scraping” conducted by EcoReps, during which students weighed the amount of food trashed in each dining hall, the group reported 60 pounds more waste than at the previous event, according to Dunn.

At up to $2,363 per semester, the price of the dining plan may lead to waste, Bailinson said.

“When you’re paying that much for a dining plan, some people feel a bit more entitled to taking things from the dining hall,” he said. “But what they don’t realize is that dining uses any extra money to get awesome new items like Nutella, almond butter, and to make structural changes like the JJ’s renovation.”

While Dining is not considering getting rid of Nutella, it has noted that it is hesitant to offer other “luxury” items, like lobster tails, due to similarly high anticipated demand.
Dunn does not characterize Nutella as especially expensive, she said.

“Given the quantities of food required to serve 35,000 meals a week, no item is considered inexpensive,” she said.

Bailinson noted that while the discussion on a Facebook post he made on the cost of Nutella began as he had hoped, with students realizing they sometimes take more than they need, he was disappointed when it veered off into a discussion of price comparison.

“Some of it was positive, some of it was very questioning of the dining hall methods,” Warrick said, referring to a student who calculated that based on the resale price of Nutella at Costco, it would require 238 pounds of Nutella to arrive at $5,000 per week.

But Dining chooses to bring its business elsewhere. Dunn said that Dining Services purchases from vendors including local farms, dairies, bakeries, green market vendors, as well as large-scale food suppliers like Sysco, Coke, and Pepsi.

Students at Ferris on Monday said that they thought a change needed to be made.

“People love their Nutella,” Charles Sanky, CC ’16, said. “People are going to go crazy, I’m not surprised.”

“From a purely economical perspective, if we decide we want to have more of this, the dining hall will have to raise the prices,” he said.

“If they’re spending so much money to afford one student taking a full jar of Nutella, I don’t think that’s reasonable or we should allow that to happen,” Xiaoyu Guo, SEAS ’13, said. “It’s all you can eat, and all you can hide, so students wouldn’t stop.”

Others saw the tempting treat as symbolic of larger social ills.

“The ramifications and the reasons behind it are bigger than Ferris Booth or the dining hall in general, it’s coming from a culture of consumption where ideas like waste don’t mean anything,” Farin Jarod Kautz, GS ’14, said.

cecilia.reyes@columbiaspectator.com | @kcecireyes

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that CCSC representatives were told that Nutella cost $5,000 the first few weeks it was offered, rather that $5,000 the first week it was offered. Spectator regrets the error.

Comments

Plain text

  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Your username will not be displayed if checked
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Andro posted on

Does not compute. "Whole 100lbs of Nutella a day" compared against 2,500-3,000 students fed a day. Recommended serving size for Nutella (yeah, right) is 37g - about 1.3oz - so about 12 servings a pound. So keeping in mind the number of students served, even if we assume they all take "recommended (minimal) serving", you're looking at about .3-.5 servings per student. I'd actually call this a surprisingly low rate of consumption, especially knowing how addictive that stuff is :)

+1
-17
-1
Anonymous posted on

I refuse to believe those numbers. Assuming Ferris Booth is buying in bulk, the cost is ~$65/11 lbs.

If they're spending $5000, then that's 846 pounds of Nutella every week. I call bullshit.

5000/65*11 = 846.15384615 pounds

http://www.amazon.com/Nutella-...

+1
-12
-1
Anonymous posted on

they're buying that nutella from the "local farms, dairies, and bakeries" that produce it. yeah.

+1
-3
-1
Anonymous posted on

Haven't you kids ever heard of nutella trees?

+1
+3
-1
Anonymous posted on

I have to pick a bone at the assumption that people are throwing away more food because they feel entitled too it. There is a distinct possibility that the food is not prepared in a way that is appetizing to students, and that many items do not taste as good as they appear... leading people to throw out food.

+1
-2
-1
Anonymous posted on

I call bullshit on all of this. Columbia is a scam. They are a money making organization more greedy than anything I have ever witnessed in my life. We don't throw out our food because we get to much and can't eat it all, we throw it all because, like everything at the jay or ferris, it may look good but we all know it tastes like a steamy pile of dog shit on a hot August day. Of course Columbia is gonna put out numbers like this so they have an excuse to raise dining plan prices next year. They are a bunch of cock suckers if you ask me.

+1
-4
-1
dushinco posted on

thank you for telling it like it is.

+1
-1
-1
Anonymous posted on

why they don't just stop ordering Nutella? They should order a set amount every week, and when it's done, it's done. It is like actually that simple, and I promise you, we will survive.

+1
+8
-1
Anonymous posted on

Unnecessary name calling... I know administration can be frustrating at times, but I don't believe managing students who have something to say about every decision they make is an easy task. Also, what are all your claims based on? Ferris and John Jay are DINING HALLS, not 5 star luxury restaurants. Their food may not be the greatest, but food is food - there are plenty of other places to go to if you aren't happy with dining halls (sorry freshmen, but a year of dining hall food is something that won't matter in 20 years anyway)

+1
+4
-1
Anonymous posted on

define "steal"
All the food here is paid for by students with their meal plan under the assumption that it is All You Can Eat and also food can be taken home in carry out boxes. For all we know, students are absolutely justified in packing their carry out with as many slabs of Nutella they want as long as they can manage to carry it back to their dorm. If dining is afraid of "theft" they should just get rid of paper containers that allow people to take food out.

+1
-1
-1
dushinco posted on

I love this.
Let's be honest, Nutella is far tastier than anything over there.

+1
-1
-1
Anonymous posted on

okay, even at 20$ a jar of nutella, $5,000/wk means 250 jars a week and 35 jars a day. which is straight up bullshit.

+1
-1
-1
Anonymous posted on

There is no story here m i rite?

+1
+4
-1
Anonymous posted on

just wanted to point out that at the last ecoreps food weigh in, they served boned chicken and counted the weight of all of the bones which would skew the statistic.

+1
+1
-1
Anonymous posted on

Also it's not as if the staff of the dining halls do not steal from them. I have seen this happen on many occasions.

I too agree with the fact that less food would get wasted if it actually tasted better and didnt make you want to throw up. I lost like 15 kgs in my first year because the food was terrible. And i have been going camping all my life and am used to terrible improvised food. It's not as if i want to waste the food that I take when I do. It just sucks balls.

And about stealing things. The only things of any nutritional value in the dining halls are the fruits and this warants taking a larger amount than ones fair share of food. Also the cost of the dining plan is ridiculous and although wasting is not done because people feel they are entitled to waste stealing is definitely done because people feel that they are paying way too much for shitty food. And I think people are entitled to steal shit from ferris and john jay and if they really want people to stop stealing or at least for it to reduce (there will always be those people who steal just because they can) then they should spend the money on improving the quality of the food rather than uselessly renovating JJ's which I didnt really see the point of doing

+1
-1
-1
Juliet Jeske posted on

Don't the students pay a lot for tuition and their dining plan? If they want to stop this, why not just stop serving Nutella. Is access to Nutella a constitutional right? Isn't available at grocery stores and bodegas across the city? Why is this even a story? And if I was paying that kind of money for school, I would expect a Nutella IV drip! Talk about first world problems.

+1
+2
-1
Anonymous posted on

This is what happens when there is not a direct cost associated with taking. Health care, AYCE food, insurance, etc. When a person does not pay directly for choosing more or less goods, services, or time, they will not decide to take reasonably.
A free for all mentality will always end up costing the provider more than expected.

+1
-2
-1
Anonymous posted on

I wonder how long it took to get a pic of all skinny people who dont eat a jar of spread everyday to be in a pic. Fat bastards

+1
-1
-1
Hank posted on

Okay, it's stuff like this that universities pull out to justify their money grabbing ways. As a student and former employee at an university/college cafeteria, let me tell you how things are.

Big schools normally have some kind of outside company that comes in and does all the food services. One such company is Chartwells. A company like Chartwells handles all of the food in the cafeterias and normally employ some kind of "buffet" styled environment where students can just grab whatever they want to eat in whatever quantity. Of course, that means there are A LOT of students that need to be served and A LOT of food has to be made. Most of the time, the food is somewhat halfassed and pretty much made to minimum specs meaning as long as it's cooked and no one will get sick, it's good to go. Of course, taste is sacrificed for speed and efficiency and normally it's the fried stuff that do end up tasting better for obvious reasons. This is one cause of wasted food: students see something that LOOKS good but it'll be awful. That plate ends up going into the trash.

Over time, students learn which dishes to avoid and which are prime for grabbing. But the company (Chartwells) will continue making the awful ones for variety and end up with excessive leftovers. And here's the thing: ALL leftovers go into the trash. The place I worked at used to allow the employees take whatever is left at closing to bring home which was pretty nice because it gave people like me something to eat from time to time. The policy changed while I was employed and I can safely assume the same policy applies everywhere else. That's right, folks, if there is a massive amount of leftover food the students won't touch, the employees are not allowed to do anything with it other than toss it into the trash. Very wasteful.

Then there are the vegetarian and vegan dishes. Most everywhere are mandated to have those options, but let's be real: vegans and vegetarians are sort of the minority. Regardless, the cafeteria has to provide those dishes for those people and there's DEFINITELY leftovers for that because no vegan or vegetarian would dare touch the disgusting stuff unless they were desperate. Bam! More food in the trash! This includes everything in the salad bar. Yes, I know it's obvious that fresher things and the dressings should be tossed, but in my experience, this can also be more wasteful than it has to be depending on the management. One time I was working the salad bar and the ranch dressing ran out when it was close to closing time. I saw that no one was really clamoring for more salad bar because, well, it was nearly closing time. Nevertheless, my boss saw that the pot of ranch was empty and flipped out about how it should be full. With only 5 minutes left until closing, I went and filled the pot only to empty it out into the trash 10 minutes later.

As for this school's claim of getting their food from local farms, dairies, and other places, I find it highly suspect. Maybe Columbia does actually support the local community, but I don't have faith in that statement. Most universities and the catering companies they hire mostly get their supplies and ingredients from big delivery trucks, and most of those things come from big name companies. I would like to see a billing statement one day because I find it hard to believe that universities/catering companies aren't looking for the cheapest of the cheap when getting their supplies. As for Columbia's poor state of finances that they have to consider pulling the lobster tail option, I laugh heartily. I don't even need to go into why that's a ridiculous statement.

And as for the "entitlement" argument where students are "stealing" food, well, I can't help but feel insulted. As a student, tuition and cost of living is rising higher and higher, so yes, I do feel entitled to be able to grab an extra slice of pizza or a sandwich as a late night snack. I certainly paid for it and it's not like I'm going to grab food for the sake of throwing it away. There are some bad apples out there that might do it, but the majority of people who do take the food are genuinely hungry people. And most students have a busy class and work schedule so sometimes the only thing to do is to run to the dining hall, grab some small things, then run out while eating it or saving it for when they reach class or their destination. At the university I attended, there were actual "monitors" that kept watch on people who did this and prevented them from doing so. Yes, that's right, there were employees stationed to make sure you are eating within the dining hall. And where I worked (I attended a school different from the university where I worked) had this similar policy: students would grab some paper plates, pack a little bit of food, then get stopped by a monitor. Students were treated like felons for getting food they paid for. Great treatment.

Finally, as for the aesthetics of a dining hall. Personally, as long as it doesn't look absolutely dreary, I'm pretty okay with anything as long as there's enough room to sit and it's not a horrible mess. I can understand why an university would want to improve its appearance (if the school looks fancy, it must be a great institution of learning! I'm definitely going to send my kid here!), but it's another thing to spend all that money trying to make it look like a 4 star restaurant. I saw a dining hall go from a normal looking school dining hall to something that could be compared to a 4 star Chinese buffet (complete with its own grill and wok area where students could custom order dishes).

tl;dr UNIVERSITIES ARE WASTEFUL

+1
+4
-1
Anonymous posted on

Yeah, national news!

+1
-1
-1
Anonymous posted on

So much good publicity for Nutella!

+1
-2
-1
Anonymous posted on

I'd just like to point out that 1) if we're paying for a dining plan, 2) we're allowed to take food out of the dining hall, and 3) it's technically all you can eat, then we're NOT STEALING.

Also, you wanna know the easy solution? When the dining hall runs out of Nutella on Tuesday, don't offer it Wednesday through Saturday. Or offer it every other day. Or don't offer it at all.

+1
-2
-1
Anonymous posted on

From the numbers in the article, rounded so I can do it in my head:

$5000 per week on Nutella.
~5000 students per day at the two dining halls = ~35000 student visits/week.
Therefore: $1/7 or $0.14 per student visit on Nutella.

Using the Costco price (rounded), 250 lbs of Nutella for 35000 visits

Average: 0.007 lbs of Nutella per student visit (or .11 oz per visit). If they are paying more for the stuff, as implied, then it is less Nutella per visit.

IT'S an OUTRAGE, I TELL YOU.

+1
-8
-1
Anonymous posted on

Another hearsay article from a student with no facts that got blown way out of proportion by the national news. Its like the Fro Sci lecture.

+1
-1
-1
Anonymous posted on

Uhhh the student is an elected student council representative on the dining committee who met with the director of dining. this is just a micro version of a congressman coming out of a talk with a private food company, marveling at the price of food, and the company refusing to comment.

+1
-7
-1
Anonymous posted on

If we're gonna talk about how "entitled" we are to the food we eat, I'd like to bring up the issue of serving sizes. I can barely finish half of the big pasta bowls in Ferris and usually end up throwing away the rest. In Hewitt, the servers always put way more on my plate than I can eat. And they wonder why so much food is thrown away?

+1
-6
-1
Anonymous posted on

Hewitt always had nutella jars available during breakfast while I was a student at Barnard. You didn't hear this type of bullshit about spending 5k on nutella. It is also common knowledge that people steal nutella jars from Hewitt all the time. Just get it from Hewitt kids.

+1
-4
-1
Anonymous posted on

I don't recall lobster tails at my undergrad/grad school's dining plans.

+1
+4
-1