UHDS dining halls aim to keep price down despite inflation

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OMN Creative Team

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Haley Stark, News Contributor

Eateries across the country are feeling the pressures of inflated food costs and shortages, and the Oregon State University dining halls and restaurants are no exception.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s July report states that food prices have risen 10.4% since June 2021. Grocery store and supermarket prices have increased by 12.2% over that period, while restaurant purchases came in at a lower 7.7% increase.

According to the Director of Campus Dining and Catering Kerry Paterson, the trends seen by consumers in grocery stores and restaurants all across the country have also affected purchasing for university dining. However, students did not have to bear the burden of these costs throughout the 2021-2022 school year.

“We have seen the cost of food and supplies increase this year,” Paterson said via email. “University Housing & Dining Services did not increase prices in our dining locations during the winter, spring or summer terms.”

Paterson attributed the university’s achievement to careful planning and waste management, but rising food costs seem to be funneling their way into menu prices in the upcoming school year. UHDS is currently evaluating fall term menu prices, which are expected to rise slightly, but not as much as the USDA reports nationwide.

“We are trying hard to keep the increases as low as possible,” Paterson said. “Our goal is to keep average price increases within the range of 4 to 5%.”

These menu price increases, and the increase in food costs in general are due to a multitude of factors building up on each other. 

“There are many drivers, including increased feed and fertilizer costs for ranchers and farmers, increased commodity costs for manufacturers, increased labor and fuel costs and disruptions in global and some domestic supply chains,” Paterson said. “There are also still intermittent COVID-19 issues, such as supply chain impacts and supply limitations due to labor shortages.”

Food shortages and supply chain issues have also poised problems for UHDS dining halls in the past year. Assistant Director-Executive Chef Jaime Herrera noted that some items have become increasingly difficult to find, including to-go packaging, utensils, chicken products and pre-made sauces.

According to Herrera, food shortages have led to changes to certain dining hall restaurant’s menus, with some items being changed or outright removed as a result.

“Our chicken tenders went from being gluten-free-friendly to regular breaded chicken tenders,” Herrera said. “Our coconut milk supply was unstable so we moved to buy coconut milk in bulk. We also changed our soy sauce and tamari sauce brands.”

Despite difficulties with rising food prices, shortages and supply chain issues, UHDS still aims to provide tasty, nutritious offerings to its customers. Dining locations and menu items can be found on the UHDS website.