Unclear future lies ahead for EC food services


Natalie Rojas, 19, biology major has worked at Cafe Camino for two years. “I like meeting brand new faces everyday and making news friends,” Rojas said. Photo credit: Faith Petrie

During her first year at El Camino, Samsara Read, 19, communicative studies major, would often frequent the various food locations available on campus.

When she realized her vegetarian diet needs could no longer be met eating on campus she began to bring food from home.

“It’s hard for me to find great filling meals here on campus,” Read said.

She like many other students on campus, wish the menu options on campus were more diverse and inclusive towards people with different eating habits.

Natalie Rojas, 19, biology major has worked at Cafe Camino for two years. “I like meeting brand new faces everyday and making news friends,” Rojas said. Photo credit: Faith Petrie

This hunger for new food options has the possibility of being met during the spring semester.

According to El Camino College District’s Final Budget plan, El Camino’s food services are all under the vendor Campus Food Services, Inc. who provides $50,000 to vend on campus.

EC’s contract with this vendor ends on June 30 and as of now the future of food services for EC is unclear according to Vice President of Administrative Services, Brian Fahnestock.

“Everything’s on the table. We could continue with what we have or it could be completely different at any point,” Fahnestock said.

Fahnestock notes how the budget is decided by Campus Food Services, Inc.

“(The $50,000 is) based off of their total sales and that estimate is pretty much close to what they do every year,” Fahnestock said.

“The $50,000 is to be here, so it’s the revenue that the college gets out of the whole thing,” Fahnestock said.

Vice president of Administrative Services, Bryan Fahnestock (left) and director of Purchasing and Business, Rocky Bonura are unsure of the future of food services at El Camino College. “We don’t know what’s going to happen,” Fahnestock said. Photo credit: Jorge Villa

Fahnestock also explained how El Camino is allocated this money throughout the year.

“$50,000 is the minimum so they make the calculation through the year (and) they pay us (monthly),” Fahnestock said.

In the 2016-2017 academic year, “unaudited revenue” brought in by the Campus Food Services Commission was $65,169.

“Every month they give us an amount and at the end of the year it adds up to at least $50,000 and usually a little bit more,” Fahnestock said.

Recently, El Camino added a new addition to the food service dynamic on campus: the Atomic Cafe mobile truck.

According to Rocky Bonura, director of Purchasing and Business Services, El Camino recruited the truck in an effort to quell faculty’s and staff’s request for specialty coffee.

“We have an exclusive beverage contract with Coca Cola but as you know they don’t do fresh brewed coffee so we were free to solicit from vendors,” Bonura said.

Bonura added that there was not a large interest regarding being a vendor on campus until the Atomic Cafe contacted EC.

“There wasn’t much response to tell you the truth, not a lot of people do this on a temporary basis,” Bonura said.

“We were able to talk with Atomic Cafe and they had what we seemed to have needed,” Bonura said.

Outside vendors like Atomic Cafe are not a foreign concept to El Camino College according to Bonura.

El Camino once houses a Taco Bell Express, Subway, and Pizza Hut as food locations for students and faculty.

Bonura said the companies found that the businesses were not profitable when the academic year was not in session.

Fahnestock agreed that the companies were not bringing in enough revenue by adding, “some things work out, some things don’t.”

While El Camino may no longer provide contracts with vendors like it has in the past, neighboring community colleges such as Santa Monica College (SMC) do.

SMC has three food locations and numerous food trucks on its campus.

According to Mitchell Heskel, dean of Education Enterprise at Santa Monica College, in 2016-2017, $160,000 was provided for food services and $170,000 was made in revenue.

Although SMC’s revenue is larger than El Camino’s, the number of food locations and student population play a role in how much money is made.

SMC students including Jamie Collins, 19, undeclared major, enjoy the numerous options provided by the food services on campus.

“I just enjoy the variety that the campus has and the unique foods,” Collins said.

At EC, Cafe Camino student worker, Natalie Rojas, 19, biology major enjoys the environment in which she works to provide food to students.

“I like meeting brand new faces every day and making new friends,” Rojas said.

Read hopes that the future of El Camino’s food includes more options for those who practice vegetarianism.

“If El Camino had fresh vegetarian meals without meat as well, that would be great,” Read said.