Several students grew concerned about the University of Rhode Island’s dining halls after watching two student workers remove an insect from the beverage section of Mainfare Dining Hall on Jan. 30.

Theresa Truong, a student eating in the dining hall at the time, described the event and her meal as off-putting after hearing a girl scream from the direction of the conveyer belts.  “When I looked over it seemed like everyone was backing away from something,” Truong said. “It wasn’t until an employee placed a cup upside down on the floor that I realized there was a bug.”

Dr. Howard S. Ginsberg, a professor of insect ecology at the university, identified the insect as a cockroach after seeing a photo.  Although Ginsberg said he could not be completely certain of this identification without the physical specimen and because of the lacking image quality. However, he said he still believed the insect to be a cockroach in his professional opinion.  

Director of Dining Services Steven Mello said that no matter what type of insect is found, cockroach or fruit fly, URI dining services treats all incidents with the same caution and severity.  Even when there are not cases of insect sightings, Mello said that the university is always taking preventative measures.

One student employee at Ram’s Den, Karly Nash, supported this statement when she spoke to the cleanliness standards and routines followed at her work.  

“We have pretty strict protocols when it comes to cleanliness,” Nash said.  “We clean and make sure that all crumbs are gone at every station at every night to prevent insects and rodents.”  

Even when insects are not seen, URI Dining Services never operates under the assumption that they are free of pests.  The threat of pests is a reality for everyone in the food industry, which is why the university sprays every week to prevent against this.  

“On a daily basis, we always keep a log,” Mello said.  “If someone identifies [a pest] and notifies us, in addition to the routine maintenance, we’ll call someone in right away.” The use of a log not only helps workers be aware of where an insect was seen when they come to spray, but it also displays the formation of patterns over time.  When used properly, the logbooks can help stop problems before they start.

A student, who wishes to remain anonymous, reported seeing what she thought to be a centipede last semester when working at Butterflied Dining Hall. The student killed the insect after notifying a janitor, but said they never told a manager about the sighting.  

Despite measures taken to prevent insects getting in, incidents and accidents do still occur.  There are a number of places that bugs can get in from, according to Mello. With more than 20 vendors supplying the dining halls and thousands of students visiting the dining halls each day, the possibilities for introduction are numerous.  

Mello said that students should not be worried about the quality of their food, because of the precautionary measure taken to prevent pests from getting in, as well as the efforts made to protect the food source.  The possibility of incidents will always be there, but it’s something URI manages every day.

“Any food services operation who tells you it’s never happened to them, they’re lying to you,” Mello said.