CSUB food services to improve dining options for housing students


Maricela Villarreal

CSUB students, Kailee, Kimberly, and Beatrice (left to right), live on the same floor, in the dorms at CSUB. October 5, 2020.

Ray Dean, Reporter

Much like food services around the city of Bakersfield and the country at large, food service on CSU Bakersfield’s campus is directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Nobody likes this situation,” said Wayne Narine, director of campus dining experience at CSUB. 

Due to the closed campus, with the exception of a few lab courses, there has been a dramatic drop in the number of patrons that pass through the doors of the Aramark operated establishments on campus.  

On Sept. 3, less than two weeks after classes for the fall 2020 semester began, CSUB’s Starbucks closed its doors. With only 20 to 30 patrons a day in contrast to the hundreds that came through pre-COVID-19, the coffee shop could not meet Starbucks corporate standards according to Narine 

Those same standards dictate that a full menu is offered.  

“With Starbucks it was all or nothing, you can’t offer a pared down menu with just a few items either,” Narine said. 

Starbucks’s closing has left the Runner Café—open seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. for dinner—as the only remaining option on campus in which food can be purchased. This has left students that live on campus with very limited options. 

At the Sept. 4 Associated Student’s Inc. meeting, several students that live on campus expressed concerns that Starbucks’s closing and the limited hours at the Runner Café left them with no breakfast options. 

Narine and Owen Smith, the director of food service for Aramark at CSUB, were both present at the ASI meeting and listened to the students concerns. Smith said that frozen breakfast items were available for purchase during lunch and dinner hours. 

With Bento Sushi closed, grab & go meals are still offered inside the Runner Café, so students don’t miss out on the delicious sushi. (Maricela Villarreal)

ASI announced they would facilitate a meeting with Aramark and students living on campus to further address the food services.  

As of Sep22, Narine said the meeting is in the works but has not happened yet, however, Food Services has implemented changes to the Runner Café menu. 

In addition to the frozen items, the Runner Café will be serving breakfast all-day. Hot cooked to order omelets, breakfast burritos and other items will be available during lunch and dinner hours beginning Sept 21. Students can purchase these ahead of time and reheat in the morning. 

It is not quite the same as a hot breakfast first thing in the morning, however, there is currently not enough students to justify the cost of operating during breakfast hours according to Narine. Like students and faculty during the COVID and distance learning situationNarine said Food Services is, trying to navigate as best as we can. 

On average there is approximately 400 housing students each semester—in addition to the students who travel to campus every day. This fall there is approximately 100 housing students, distance learning from their rooms.  

Even though the number has dramatically dropped, Narine said, “If there are students on campus there will be food services in some capacity.” 

With the recent announcement that distance learning will also take place in spring 2021 discussions are already taking place as to how food services will look and operate next semester. Narine said ideas are being hammered out, but there is not a definitive plan just yet. 

Food Services does have plans to bring variety to the current menu with themed events such as a chocolate milk shake day, veggie day, and an Oktoberfest themed menu to arrive soon.  

Students are encouraged to contact food services if they have special dietary needs or just want to request something new and different. Narine encourages students to contact Owen Smith, who is on campus and can help with immediate needs. Narine, who is usually on campus, but is currently working remotely, is also available to help students with their food service needs. 

Student concerns are also welcome.  

“To us it’s not a complaint. It’s our opportunity to make it right. More than anything, we want to hear from the students. They don’t have to wait until an ASI meeting. We are here for them,” Narine said.