DS staff and budget have lowered, forcing Dining Services to limit food options
Anderson Commons offers students a variety of food options — anywhere from chicken strips to gluten-free vegetarian dishes, but students may have noticed some recent changes. This year’s decline in student enrollment has forced dining services to adjust its options.
Facing both a decrease in budget and a decline in workforce, dining services has had to reduce the number of food options being offered this fall.
“We have to do what we have to do to make our bottom lines…but our number one priority is to make the students happy,” said Mark Schmidt, dining services chef and culinary manager.
Despite this decline in food options, dining services staff has found a silver lining.
“Having less food items to prepare and maintain has allowed the culinary team and other production staff to put more effort into the quality and freshness of the food that we are serving,” said Cindy Hogenson, assistant director of dining services. “And we hope students are noticing that.”
The reduction of available entree options has also given staff members more time to experiment with other aspects of Anderson Commons, such as recipes.
“We are always looking to develop new recipes, and so we do a lot of recipe testing on a variety of things,” said Nicole Crouch, residential dining manager of dining services.
Dining services is continually trying to improve the meals by trying “to weed out the things that people don’t really care that much about,” while “focusing on the things that they do enjoy to make them even better,” Schmidt said.
Dining services staff has also spent a great deal of time and energy in planning menus that assure there are options available at every meal to suit any dietary preferences.
“We wanted to go simpler so that [students] could build and be creative, and hopefully meet more of the student’s needs by being more simple with ingredients,” Hogenson said.
Dining services also understands that some students have dietary restrictions.
“As you can imagine, we have people who have certain food allergies and what not, so having things that people can build versus [pre-made entree items] is helpful in that respect, too, not just for vegetarians,” Crouch said.
Dining services has added tofu to the salad bar and has also added kale powerslaw in an attempt “to beef up our lettuce options…and improve the nutritional content,” Crouch said.
Changes such as these have been implemented in hopes of better serving vegetarians and vegans alike.
“I feel like I have enough to eat, but more vegetarian foods are always good,” said Solveig Lange, a freshman this year, who considers herself a vegetarian. After learning about the reduction of entree options, she continued, “I might have to repeat meals more often…[like] sandwiches, which I can customize to make vegetarian.”
Students will have the opportunity to voice their opinions about these changes later this fall, Hogenson said.
“Dining services will be conducting its annual comprehensive survey. The feedback we receive from [the] survey is used to determine how we use our resources to make improvements,” Hogenson said in an email. “Hearing from our students about things they want to see in dining services greatly influences what changes are made.”
Ultimately, even with the decrease in food options available, the dining services staff still has the same goal.
“The number one focus is for students to enjoy the food…so we put a lot of pride into putting things out. It’s no easy task to serve several thousand people every day and we just want to make sure they appreciate it and really enjoy what we are able to put out,” Schmidt said.