Stocking campus vending machines has been a challenge for Food Services due to the global pandemic, low-staffing and supply chain disruptions, according to Food Services.
The Accent posted a poll on Instagram to hear students’ opinions of the campus vending machines. The poll asked how often campus vending machines malfunctioned, how often they did not have the item students wanted and where the empty or broken vending machines were located.
In a follow-up to the Accent’s Instagram poll, junior nursing major Haianny Pereira-Carvalho expressed her frustration with the vending machines in various buildings on campus.
“Since school started in August, I noticed that the vending machines weren’t working,” Pereira-Carvalho said. “First it was Thatcher South, and then it was [Brock Hall]. … The main issue I see is that the machines keep breaking. … At this point, it’s been three months since the vending machines [haven’t] been working/have nothing in them. It’s giving me the impression that they gave up, or it’s not a priority anymore.”
According to some additional responses to the Accent’s Instagram poll, many other students have also had issues with vending machines across campus, including machines in Thatcher Hall, Thatcher South, Talge Hall, AdventHealth Hall, Brock Hall and the Hickman Science Center. Beside citing broken machines, students also said the refill schedule seemed slow.
“I’ve noticed that the vending machines, especially in the dorms, have been empty most days of the week and haven’t been restocked as often as they used to,” said Jeff Kern, junior mass communication – advertising major. “Most Sundays they are empty until probably late Monday.”
In an interview with the Accent, Food Services Director Teddy Kyriakidis responded to the students’ complaints.
According to Kyriakidis, something as simple as a power surge can make card readers glitch, which shuts down the entire machine. Though some machines can be fixed easily, several machines owned by Coca Cola have to be fixed by technicians from the company itself.
Other times, the issue is not just mechanical. Kyriakidis said the vending machine in Thatcher South has recently had an issue with an ant infestation. Spraying the ants has not helped.
“Because of the pandemic and everything else, you know, it’s hard,” Kyriakidis said. “It’s hard to come by supplies, and it’s hard to come by technicians.”
Kyriakidis said stocking typically varies based on the volume of activity at the machines, with dorm machines being stocked most frequently.
“We try to stock [machines] late on Friday and again on Sunday,” Kyriakidis said. “It’s maybe not always the case, but we try to.”
However, this semester, issues with COVID-19 affected the vending team, according to Kyriakidis.
“We had some issues with quarantine and isolation and sickness this semester where we didn’t have any people to stock the machines,” Kyriakidis said. “At one point, we had the entire vending team out for one reason or another.”
The vending team needs one more student worker, according to Kyriakidis. Currently, there is only one staff member and three student workers stocking machines.
Besides being low-staffed, issues within the snack supply chains have made it difficult to get certain items. According to Kyriakidis, Coca Cola has recently struggled to supply Peace Tea and Smart Water, although Southern is high priority for Smart Water and receives it whenever Coca Cola is able to distribute it.
Kyriakidis encouraged students to contact Food Services Assistant Director Jeri Pewsey at firstname.lastname@example.org to report any machine malfunction. Kyriakidis also said students are welcome to suggest food items for the vending machines or even submit requests for vending machines to be placed in new locations.
“Because of the pandemic, things are struggling everywhere,” Kyriakidis said. “Staffing is a struggle … product lines are struggling. So we’re just trying to keep the pieces together as much as we can.”