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Is There A Shortage of Food Service Staff on Campus?

Updated: Nov 11, 2021

Story by Destiny Mizell, Middle Tennessee News Reporter

MURFREESBORO, TN -- Ever since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses around and on campus have observed new hours of operation and sometimes services can take a little longer than they used to.

Many students have noticed that fast food restaurants on campus close earlier than in the past. Students have also noticed a lack of PODs, or Provisions on Demand, in operation since many PODs have been vacant. Dining halls tend to have the same hours, however.

MT Dining Services manages campus pods, dining halls and fast-food services. Denise Montgomery, the human resources manager for MT Dining, shared inside information on the situation.

“MT Dining is experiencing staffing challenges similar to virtually every sector of the economy as a result of the pandemic,” Montgomery said. This is true. COVID-19 has undoubtedly interrupted the workforce. “The MT Dining workforce is composed of both full-time employees who live in the community and part-time employees whom are primarily [Middle Tennessee State University] students. Because of an extremely competitive labor market in the community at large, it has been difficult to recruit a sufficient number of full-time employees. As a result, we have a higher percentage of part-time employees, which makes scheduling to cover all shifts challenging,” she said.

Montgomery explained that MT Dining has more employees this year than the past two years, but the majority of those are part-time employees. So really, there is a lack of full-time employees.

Various dining locations at different hours may have plentiful staffing and, in other times, do not. It seems to fluctuate as MT Dining works around student employees’ schedules.

Kaitlyn Peck, a junior at MTSU shared: “At the beginning of the semester, a lot of students including myself were really disappointed with the staffing situation on campus dining locations. Lines were much longer than they are now, and many students couldn’t enjoy the great options we have on campus because they would be late to class.” To entice students to work, MT Dining is offering higher pay and perks.

“In order to be competitive within the food service industry, MT Dining has increased our starting rate for all employees to $12 per hour, are providing student employees with a $20 per week flex bucks incentive when students work 15 plus hours per week and are paying the cost for non-student employee parking,” Montgomery stated.

Clearly, those benefits can be a huge incentive for students, but that won’t fill the number of full-time slots open. Until that happens, students can only hope that more PODs will re-open for business.


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