Monday, October 19, 2020

Students react to MSU Dairy Store and Plant pausing operations

September 4, 2020
The MSU Dairy Store on March 25, 2019.
The MSU Dairy Store on March 25, 2019. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

The Michigan State University Dairy Store and Plant announced in a post Wednesday evening that they would be pausing operations until further notice.

The last day for curbside sales will be Sept. 14, wholesale sales will continue while supplies last, according to the post.

Director of Communications and Marketing for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Eileen Gianiodis said this decision comes as a result of business and economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. With MSU moving to remote learning for the fall, Gianiodis said they realized sales would only continue to decline.

"Michigan’s dairy industry is one of our strongest supporters, and our ability to sustain operations that meet our teaching, research and outreach missions has not changed," Gianiodis said in an email. "However, it has become financially detrimental to continue to operate the retail and wholesale operations of the MSU Dairy Store during the COVID-19 pandemic."

Gianiodis said the decision to close has weighed heavy on all involved, but it is their intention to reopen in some fashion when economic conditions permit doing so in a sustainable manner.

Four full-time employees will be furloughed due to the pause in operations.

"As many have already come to understand, quickly, repercussions from the COVID-19 pandemic stretch far and wide," Gianiodis said. "This one, however, hits close to home. We understand that the MSU Dairy Plant and Store are a sentimental experience — and that’s why we need to pause it now, to preserve it."

Food science senior Ashley Blackburn has worked in the Dairy Store since January 2018. She said it was really beneficial for her to work closely with the Dairy Plant and to apply the things she was learning in class to a real world situation.

"As a food scientist specifically, there’s a dairy processing course that occurs during the fall semester," Blackburn said. "And so, people are enrolled in that right now and luckily I have already taken it in the past."

With the plant closing for the unknown future, students currently enrolled in the course will not have the opportunity to go into the plant and work cross-functionally with the plant team to garner the same experience which benefited her.

Blackburn is also a member of the MSU Food Science Club, which hosts yearly activities making mozzarella cheese and ice cream in the Dairy Plant. The current situation, she said, likewise prevents students from being able to build experience in extracurricular activities.

Back in 2019, when sub-zero temperatures hit and MSU saw the cancellation of classes for the seventh time in school history, Blackburn said the store persevered by implementing a polar vortex themed ice cream flavor.

"That was a hard time for us because that was like the first time we'd been shut down in a lot of years for snow days," Blackburn said. "I just never thought we'd go through a pandemic or something like this that would ultimately shut us down temporarily."

Neuroscience senior Meghan Kirk said she was shocked when she heard the news of the temporary closure.

The Dairy Store and Plant is a good source of revenue for not just campus in general, but for the students that work and gain experience there, she said.

"It's all made on campus and ... it's like all campus community-wide, so I feel like closing it is a really big downplay on being a part of your community," Kirk said.

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