am writing this letter to address some of the issues presented in the article entitled “Students concerned over lack of healthy food options in the Marketplace” in the Sept. 22, 2016 issue of the Etownian. Overall, it was a good article, but I felt that our perspective wasn’t fairly represented. Additionally, the photos included in the article were not of items served in the Marketplace.
Over the past few years, Dining Services has made many changes in what is offered in the way of healthy grains in the Marketplace. We’ve added a whole grain of the week, beans and legumes, which are all available daily. We’ve also switched to healthier oils and are now using olive and canola oil for the sautéing.
Approximately 80 percent of the vegetables served in the Centerplate area of the Marketplace are steamed with no oil added. The rest are sautéed normally with olive oil unless otherwise labeled, or they are tossed with olive oil and roasted to maintain more nutritional value.
The Mongolian grill always has brown rice available, and we do offer some brown rice vegan meals on the cycle menu. We have tried offering brown rice in the rice cooker in the past, but it was not well received. We do offer Basmati and Jasmine rice as well.
We have tried cutting back on fried chicken tenders and nuggets on the cycle menu, but it backfired for lunch because those are big ticket items at lunch—when not available, students move to other stations, which causes big lines. We use 30-35 cases of chicken tenders in one lunch period alone. It is not a good business practice to pull your best-selling product from your menu. To cut back on fried items, we purchased a Combi oven which has a greaseless frying mode. It does not work for everything, but we do use it for a variety of items so we can cut back on deep frying.
There are a lot of healthy options available on a daily basis. We have a Healthy Jay map available at the Marketplace Host Station. As Residential Dining Chef, I am happy to provide Healthy Jay tours upon request. I can be reached at email@example.com to set up a tour. I have also worked with Student Wellness during National Nutrition Month and offered those tours as one of the challenges, but for the past two years, I have had no takers.
Nutritional information is offered to the best of our ability given the limited manpower and resources we have available. The nutritional software we have is on a floppy disk, and we do not have a registered dietitian on staff. Our Production Supervisor spends numerous hours keeping this information updated. It is currently available for review in a binder located at the Marketplace Host station. We are also working on getting this information posted on our website very soon. Dining Services runs our Marketplace menus on a five week cycle, unlike many other schools that run on a three or four week cycle. We do this to avoid the frequent repetition of menu items
The loss of the Salad Toss station was a big setback for us, and we realize, a disappointment for our customers. Due to the lack of student labor this semester, we had to move the student workers we do have to the deli so we could keep that open. We run 40 to 60 percent short staffed at nearly every lunch and dinner and that is also affecting services provided in the Jays Nest and the Jay Truck.
We are always available to answer questions and would be more than happy to talk with anyone who has questions about services, menu items and why we do things the way we do. Communication between us and our customers is welcome and encouraged and can go a long way to help avoid misconceptions about the Dining Services.