This article originally appeared in The Flat Hat
Sometimes College of William and Mary students call for variety on the dining menu and recent changes to the College’s dining programs aim to answer those calls.
According to Aramark Marketing Manager Faren Alston and Assistant Director of Marketing and Communication Eden Harris, there have been a number of changes to campus dining, both obvious and behind the scenes. Many of these dining changes are made possible by the new policy requiring all on-campus students, beginning with the class of 2015, to purchase a meal plan.
The Commons is sporting a new wok station and a bakery showcase. Both the Caf and the Sadler Center Dining Hall will now offer morning breakfast pizzas, made-to-order menus between traditional meal periods, and the ability to request chicken breast at the grill station. Sadler is also home to a new Chef’s Corner featuring the cooking of Chef Andrew Rice.
“I can definitely see substantial changes from my freshman year to now,” Justin Miller ’13 said.
The Caf and Sadler are not the only dining halls offering new products. The Marketplace is now home to a F’real Milkshake machine similar to Wawa’s, an extended omelet and salad bar, create-your-own flatbreads at Capiche, and Hot Dogs of the Nation and sweet potato fries at Grille Works. Fish Taco Friday at Zoca and the inclusion of the turkey burger as a meal swipe option are also new to Marketplace.
All three dining halls will also offer homemade hamburgers and fresh-cut fries.
“I think this is showing [that dining is] delivering on their promise of upping the quality of their food,” Andy Hickman ’13 said. “They’re taking care of the details as well.”
Sustainability is another goal for Dining Services this semester, seen through the introduction of sustainable bamboo plates and BPA-free glasses across campus. Cage-free eggs and local ingredients are also making their presence known. Jan’s Jams from Providence Forge, Va. and Twin Oaks Tofu from Louisa, Va. now contribute to the menu in addition to The Good Earth Peanut Company in Skippers, Va. and the Peanut Shop in Williamsburg. All herbs are grown in an herb garden on campus and Executive Pastry Chef Dominique Lewis bakes all breads on site.
Katie Caudle ’14, the president of Forks, a club on sustainable and ethical eating practices on campus, applauded Dining Services for the changes.
“The efforts to make campus dining more sustainable have been critical steps in reducing the environmental impact of our school,” Caudle said. “But it is also critical to make sure that students and faculty understand why these changes are important.”
To promote local produce, Dining Services also will host a Farm to Fork Night in the Sunken Garden on Sept. 21 in partnership with the Williamsburg Farmer’s Market.
However, some students feel these improvements do not justify the meal plan requirement for current sophomores.
“Sophomores in Ludwell shouldn’t have to pay $3,600 a year for food they won’t necessarily eat,” Sam Schooler ’15 said. “I don’t like the dining halls but feel I’m wasting my money by not going. It’s annoying, especially for vegetarians like me, who don’t have many options at Sadler and the Caf anyway.”
Aramark is working to improve their relationship with the student body. Students are encouraged to participate in the Text N Tell Feedback program. The program allows students to text reviews, questions, and requests to 55744. Dining representatives will answer these messages and display them on monitors in the dining center.
“We are all about getting feedback,” Alston said. “Let us know what you like, let us know what you don’t like. We are here to serve the students. Come talk to us.”
Harris offered a concrete example of the response to feedback from students. Dining Services became aware of the desire for chopsticks by many of the College’s international students through the grapevine. Within 24 hours, chopsticks became a permanent addition to campus dining facilities.
“We don’t know about these things unless somebody says something,” Harris said. William and Mary Dining Student Advocacy is also opening an office in the lobby of the Caf to offer students a face-to-face interaction with Dining Services to address their questions and concerns.