When the Wood Technology Center (WTC) was relocated to the Central District neighborhood in 2012, no expense was spared in creating a state-of-the-art shop for the school’s carpentry, cabinetmaking and marine technology degree programs. But for the approximately 100+
students on campus, one crucial thing is still missing: food.
Currently there is no fresh food available on campus nor are there any stores or vending machines that sell pre-packaged food.
A proposal to bring vending machines to the WTC was vetoed by the WTC Student Association in 2015 because students wanted healthy food instead of the junk food—soda, chips, candy bars, etc. — typically sold in the machines.
As an alternative, “The students…have proposed to research the feasibility of organizing food trucks on our campus. There is a subcommittee working on this at the present time,” said Jeff Wasserman, faculty advisor to the WTC Student Association.
When asked what food options were available for students, Director of Auxiliary Services Jeff Keever said, “There are two large refrigerators where students can store food they bring from home, and an entire bank of microwaves to heat and reheat food.”
In addition, Keever noted, “Wood Tech is fortunate to be located in a dense and urban neighborhood with some variety of food options
nearby, including a grocery store and a Subway just one block away.”
Carpentry student Sarah Kautz countered, “There are virtually no restaurants within walking distance and I don’t think a grocery store with limited options (virtually no vegetarian options at the deli—it’s almost entirely fried food) and a Starbucks count as restaurants. The Subway is closed and the only other restaurant, a Taco Del Mar, is about to close.”
Seattle Central College’s (SCC) main campus is also located a block away from a grocery store—the QFC on Pike Ave—but few students see this as a realistic choice. This is in part because just across the street there is a multitude of affordable restaurants serving sandwiches, salads, pizza, protein shakes and more. If leaving the building is too much trouble, the main campus itself houses 17 vending machines, two restaurants and a bakery operated by the Seattle Culinary Academy as well as a school-run cafeteria.
Until Summer Quarter in 2015, an ex-Navy chef named Jimmy operated an independent food service business at the WTC in a kitchen
specifically designed for that purpose. Kautz said, “[Jimmy] would make home-cooked meals. They usually only cost like $5 for a big plate of spaghetti or barbecue.”
Confusion surrounds the reasons for Jimmy’s departure; some students think he retired while others heard rumors that he had been pushed out by rising rent prices.
Wasserman clarified, “Due to regulations on the usage of state buildings and a change in rental terms on the kitchen, our chef of many years had to stop serving us.”
Because no food service provider was hired to replace Jimmy, WTC students now find themselves driving off-campus to buy food.
However they don’t always have enough time to leave school, eat and return before the 30 minute lunch period is over. As a result, “Most of the instructors have agreed to lengthen the lunch period by 15 minutes,” said Kautz.
In the past, the WTC’s separation from the main campus and the fact that “students all take breaks and lunch together” helped create “a strong sense of community,” said interim Dean of Workforce Education Andrea Samuels.
Kautz agreed, “There used to be really a sense of friendship and spirit when Jimmy was cooking…students and teachers alike used to line up to buy from Jimmy’s menu.” But having to go off campus for food threatens this sense of community. Nowadays, Kautz pointed out, “The
dining area is unusually vacant.”
Many students at the WTC see the lack of progress on this issue as exemplifying the sense of disconnect and neglect they feel from the main campus.
Adrian Rautureau, president of the Student Association, said he was “extremely frustrated with the responses of all branches of the administration in regards to our food situation.”
“You could never do this on main campus, there’d be a riot,” said Kautz.
Wasserman, who has been a faculty member at the WTC for 12 years, hopes that the Student Association’s sub-committee research will prove fruitful. “It is my feeling that food trucks would be a good solution, as they might provide variety, reasonable prices and allow our students to stay on campus for their half-hour lunch break.”
Despite the potential for progress, students are not satisfied.
Kautz said, “We’re doing work! It’s not like we’re sitting on our butts. We’re hungry!”
By Alexandra Sachnoff