Visibility a key goal for campus dining

Food is a huge part of most college students’ lives, and it is no secret that food is my ultimate obsession. As an aspiring food journalist, I am always thinking about food, and I have become a resource to friends and family with any food related questions. As a result of this strong passion, I recently ran for and won the position of Food Committee chair at Vassar.

While I have been a member of the Food Committee for most of the year, a lot of people on campus don’t realize that it exists, and if they do, they don’t really know what exactly it is that we do. As next year’s chair, I am here to tell you what the Food Committee has done, will do and how we can help improve the dining scene at Vassar.

The Food Committee as it exists now meets a few times a month in the Dodge room at the Deece with Maureen King, Senior Director of Campus Dining, and Laura Leone, Director of Operations. At each meeting, which is about an hour long, Andrew Eslich, the current chair, takes us through a list of discussion points. These points tend to include general comments relating to the current state of the Deece’s food options, recommendations to improve on-campus dining and upcoming projects.

One of the Food Committee’s biggest projects recently has been to create a program during next year’s orientation that will aid in familiarizing freshmen with Vassar’s dining system. During previous meetings, we on the council have recalled that at the beginning of our own freshmen years, we were all confused by the offerings, hours, options and more at the Deece and the Retreat.

With the help of the Food Committee, Maureen and Laura have put an orientation program into action. This program will include a tour for each fellow group to see all the different stations and options at the Deece at a time when it isn’t crowded, as well as a behind the scenes feature that will take freshmen into the kitchen to see how their food is prepared and stored.

A walk through the kitchen is one of the most important parts of the tour because it will kill the commonly held misconception that food served in a college dining hall is not fresh and prepared with care. As a part of the orientation program, Maureen and Laura also plan to create a more clear and explanatory information pamphlet or card detailing the college’s dining options, where and how you can use dining bucks and meal swipes and hours of the various dining locations.

The Food Committee has also made some noticeable changes in the Deece’s operation that you probably use almost every day. When members make comments and suggestions, Maureen and Laura do their best to make adequate adjustments.

After students expressed frustration over not being able to toss a salad made on a plate, the Food Committee was successful in getting bowls to be used at the salad bar. We were also able to obtain pan covers for the stir-fry station to help speed up cooking and move the line along more quickly. If you’ve been enjoying the wider variety of cheese at the salad bar, such as feta, bleu, Parmesan and cheddar, the Food Committee made the request that is responsible for this change.

Aside from continuing to make improvements at the Deece, as the next chair of the Food Committee, I want to make it more widely known to students that our committee exists and is here as a resource for them. I didn’t even realize the Food Committee existed until I heard through a friend and then emailed Andrew to see if I could join. Older students may know about the committee because they see the chair position on the ballot, but new students don’t see this.

To get the word out, especially for new students, I want the Food Committee to be present at next year’s Activities Fair. This will help new students and current students who are just unaware of our existence to express their interest in getting involved with Vassar’s dining system. Before next year, I will also create Facebook and other social media pages for Vassar students to “like” or follow, keeping the campus updated on the changes that we have made and are trying to make in the future. Even if students don’t want to become members of the Food Committee and attend frequent meetings, I want everyone to know that we are here to take their requests and comments into account.

As I mentioned previously, there is a common misconception that food served at the Deece is not fresh and is low quality. When I first joined the Food Committee, I took a tour of the entire facility where I got to meet some of the staff, see where fresh fruits and vegetables are stored, learn about the recipes the cooks use and became informed about which farms and distributors our food comes from.

Before doing so, I wasn’t aware of the fact that the food we are eating everyday is freshly made, the ingredients are as local as the budget will allow and how much work and material goes into serving thousands of students three meals a day. As the next Food Committee chair, I want to make other students aware of these things as well.

 

—Sarah Sandler ’18 is a student at Vassar College. She is incoming chair of the Food Committee

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