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Campus Cuisine–It's Not Your Standard Cafeteria Fare Anymore

One of the most important stops on a campus visit is the dining hall.  While I try to remind my clients that education the primary “service” they are purchasing when they look at a college or university, it is true that they are also choosing a home for the next four years.

So residence halls are important.  Will you be comfortable?

And dining halls are also key.  Will you find a pleasing, nutritious, and varied diet?

In the past decade or two, dining halls have undergone an overhaul. In part, this is because the consumer–kids–have developed more discriminating palate.

Gone is the usual rotation of Salibury steak (a.k.a. “mystery meat”), macaroni and cheese, and breaded chicken cutlets with a slab of cheese (we used to call these horrifying things “elephant scabs”).

Now it’s Vietnamese pho (noodle soup), mini-samosas, goat cheese salad and chicken mole.

Check out what these colleges are doing (courtesy of an article in the Associated Press) to offer more flexible dining options:

  • Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., offers recyclable takeout containers called “GustieWare” in the dining halls.
  • This fall, Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y., will offer students on its meal plan a chance to pick up groceries in the cafeteria as an alternative to a cooked meal.
  • At Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., food waste from the dining hall is used as compost for an organic garden where students grow lettuce, peppers, corn, kale, squash, carrots and other vegetables.

So as you visit campuses, make sure to ask about various dining options, and take the time to have at least one meal in the primary dining hall.  You should even ask students (I  nab ’em while they are standing in line) what they think of the meals on campus, and what the other options are) how they feel about the food.   Before you rush to judgment, keep in mind that any institutional food will become overly familiar to the student who eats in a dining hall day after day, semester after semester.

And also keep in mind that all these dining options do cost money.  One of the biggest cost jumps in college costs in recent years has been increases in the cost of “room and board,” with board being that Vietnamese pho, goat cheese, and premium organic groceries.

Mark Montgomery
Educational Consultant

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  1. You have such a discriminating palate, Brad. I miss the mixed vegetable medley…floating in briny slime. Yum.

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