by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
Some say modern America is a nation of foodies, and that the 18-to-33 demographic casts a particularly hungry eye on that trend. An ethnically diverse generation with a taste for eclectic and values-driven cuisine, millennials are a driving force behind the current food revolution. So as new habits and discoveries emerge, American colleges and universities are challenged to keep pace.
The good news: Dickinson is officially ahead of the curve.
Dickinson was recently named one of the 75 Best Colleges for Food in America for 2014, according to The Daily Meal, an online publication devoted to food-industry news and reporting. Drawing from a pool of approximately 2,000 colleges and universities nationwide, the judges identified 320 standout food-service programs and placed Dickinson at number 67 on its list.
“The [Dining Services] team is proud of the accomplishment and grateful for such recognition,” says Dining Services Director Errol Huffman, who joined Dickinson’s staff last December. “Team members are asking, ‘What do we do next?’ and ‘How can we up our game?’ because we want to give our very best.”
Judges assessed each program’s accessibility, sustainability and service; the nutritional values of the food on its menus; and nutrition-education programming. Distinctive features—those little extra offerings that make a dining plan unique—earned bonus points, as did the quality and quantity of alternative dining options nearby.
Dickinson’s trayless Dining Hall and composting system attracted major points for sustainability, while its seasonal menus, healthy vending options, College Farm produce and other local fare were winners on the nutritional scale. The judges also noted Dickinson’s nutrition-education initiatives, such as online healthy-eating tips and related classes and events organized by the farm and by the college nutritionist. Downtown Carlisle’s independent restaurants boosted the score for accessible dining alternatives.
As Huffman notes, the accolades reflect a campus food culture that continues to diversify and expand. The mainstays—the Dining Hall and KOVE, Underground sushi bar, Biblio Café, The Quarry and Union Station—are still running strong, but with noteworthy additions and tweaks. With the Kline Center’s latest upgrades, Dickinsonians can power up after a workout at the Juice Box. They also can enjoy fair-trade coffee at the Biblio and Quarry, opt for the new Any 20 meal plan and enjoy an ever-widening selection of international and seasonal food.
Many of those seasonal items are harvested at the College Farm as part of the college’s unique 360-degree food-cycle system, which delivers fresh ingredients to the Dining Hall and compost to the farm. Students enrolled in Penn State University’s agricultural program recently traveled to Dickinson to learn how it’s done.
Also on Dining Services’ plate this year: a grocery-purchase plan—now in trial run—that allows students with special diets to purchase groceries through Dining Services. The college also is considering new layout and designs for the dining area.
“And we have much more planned,” Huffman says.
Published August 30, 2014