KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — With more students on the University of Tennessee’s Knoxville campus this fall, dining halls, and other campus restaurants are feeling strained. There are simply not enough workers to satisfy the demand.

Adam Albaba is a Junior at UT. He said the lines he’s experienced this year are way worse when compared to pre-pandemic times. “There’s usually a line, like usually triple what I’m used to from my freshman year being here,” Albaba said.

Albaba added that outside of the dining halls the on-campus restaurants are also limited. “For the people that don’t have the dining halls, we’re given a specific amount of money to use to the UT-owned restaurants, but it’s kind of hard to do that.” He said he’s waited anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half to get food. He says these long lines have even made him late to class.

“That’s what bothered me the most, students should never have to worry about being late to class because of food lines,” said the Acting Associate Vice Chancellor of Operations for the University, Brian Browning.

Browning said there are still 200 openings in campus dining services. He added that this is a huge improvement since the start of the semester.

“We have set expectations for our contractor about the availability and quality of service. We have been working with the vendor since the start of the semester to improve service and will continue those efforts. The vendor is actively working to hire more staff to expand hours of operations at dining locations across campus. Our residential dining units have extended operating hours and are open 7 days per week. We take seriously our commitment to provide our students with fast, convenient, and quality food options on campus.”

Browning also shared the additional actions taken by the university during the first semester to alleviate the issue. They are outlined below.

  • Brought food trucks on campus that accommodate Dining Dollars, Flex, and VolCard accounts
  • Added premium grab-and-go express locations and increased additional meal swipe options at national brands and POD markets
  • Gave each meal plan holder $300 in bonus Dining Dollars, and each flex plan holder $50 in bonus Dining Dollars.

Browning said it’s those steps that have cut down the lines. “We started and focused on the residential dining units, the core retails locations on campus of our core campus, and then we work out from there.”

He hopes these are all steps that can get them fully staffed soon.

A statement from Aramark sent to WATE 6 On Your Side can be found below.

While the unprecedented nature of the pandemic has created national supply chain issues and labor challenges that are unusual in their scale and reach, the University of Tennessee Dining team is focused on doing everything possible to proactively mitigate these issues. We are pleased to say that we’ve made significant progress since the start of the semester: the long lines have all but disappeared, our staff has steadily grown, our location and hour modifications are minimal, and positive student feedback indicates that they are noticing the improvement.

The University of Tennessee and Aramark are accepting applications for both part-time and full-time positions. There are also several resources on campus for residential and non-residential students who are experiencing food insecurity including the Big Orange Pantry, which provides emergency food assistance.