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Articles: Dining Halls

Fair trade is a model in which producers are paid above market, “fair trade” prices provided they meet specific labor, environmental and production standards. (Photo:  Photograph by James Rodriguez, 2013, Fair Trade USA. All rights reserved)

Last fall Cabrini College (Pa.) became one of only 17 colleges and universities in the United States to be recognized as a “Fair Trade College.” (The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh was the first in 2008.)

Students at Savannah College of Art and Design have a variety of dining styles and locations to choose from across campus.

Only one-third of 3,400 U.S. college students say they’re satisfied with their meal plans, found a survey by food industry research firm Technomic. But schools are finding that to address the problem, they need to go beyond simply improving what winds up on diners’ plates.

While location is key when it comes to campus dining, students also appreciate delicious, unique food options. Here are some schools that have added meal options that have become a hit with students:  

A number of dining service management companies have used guest chef programs to spice up the dining experience on client campuses.

Bob Sempek at Treat America says bringing in chefs from other colleges, as well as from some of the consulting company’s business and industry accounts, has generated enthusiastic response. Students get to watch visiting chefs prepare gourmet fare, while the chefs get to travel a bit and enjoy a change of scene.

Every dining services operator aims to maximize cost efficiency, and that means saving money as well as producing revenue.

At UMass, Dartmouth, combining full-service and self-service dining under the management of Chartwells, has helped to reduce labor costs and improve efficiency, according to auxiliary services director Jeff Augustine.

“We are getting a lot more hours out of our labor and services for our students than we did with our previous vendor,” Augustine says.

After a number of students at Lesley University (Mass.) sued the institution for not providing adequate/safe dining options for them, the Justice Department reached a settlement with Lesley officials. The university, which contracts with Bon Appetit Dining Services, agreed to amend policies and practices to:

cafeteria food

Continually provide both hot and cold gluten-free and allergen-free options in dining hall food lines. Allow students to pre-order allergen-free meals. Provide a dedicated space in the main dining hall to store and prepare gluten-free and allergen-free foods and to avoid cross-contamination.

Every year, the sustainability staff at UC Davis hosts a celebration to sum up its Meatless Monday campaign. Students learn about their impact, and, best of all, get to indulge in some free vegan ice cream.

Making dietary changes isn’t just a good idea for staying healthy—it’s a way of going green, too. Colleges and universities are quickly taking notice. By buying local and promoting eating less meat, they’re helping students change the way they think about food in their dining halls and across campus, for the health of not only the campus community, but the planet.

Think that a vegan diet is an oxymoron in cattle country? Not so at the University of North Texas, which has made following a plant-based diet very much a reality by building the Mean Greens dining hall. The idea for the vegan-only hall was developed out of student demand, and served an average of 4,500 students a day in the first week after opening August 22, shares Ken Botts, director of special programs for UNT Dining Services. “Students vote with their feet,” he says. “By showing they really, really liked it, we knew we made the right decision.”

In the event of a severe allergic reaction, a delay of even a few minutes in getting an epinephrine injection can make a scary situation deadly. That appears to be what happened to Kennesaw State University (Ga.) student Tyler Cody Davis, who, on August 18, ate at the campus dining hall, later returned there in distress to seek emergency assistance, and not long after was pronounced dead at a local hospital, according to a KSU statement.

Digital signage has existed on campuses in some form for decades. Originally, it was standard television sets embedded in the wall with a slow crawl of text showing campus news. Now, high-quality flatscreens display live TV, text, and information tickers all at the same time.

Rich in natural light, the building aims to help students be inspired by the school's mission, encouraging them to remember the need for accountability and transparency in international service.

Start with an understanding of campus culture, stir in a strong sense of community, blend in a brand new dining facility and dining program, season with an educational component, and simmer for a sensory delight that will satisfy the hardiest appetite.

Elon University (N.C.)

Brown & Co. is another campus dining option for Elon students.

Total full-time enrollment: 5,628

Institution type: Four-year private

Total number of campus dining facilities (includes any facility serving food; please explain): 12

Gettysburg College (Pa.)

Managers can regularly be found sitting in the student dining area at Gettysburg to solicit comments.

Total full-time enrollment: 2,600

Institution type: Four-year private

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