UB Campus Dining & Shops spends $3.5 million to enhance food on campus
Initiative includes renovations, improved menus and expanded eateries
UB’s Campus Dining & Shops (CDS) wants people to know why UB is ranked the healthiest college in the nation – and it’s spending $3.5 million to do it.
New and returning students were greeted by renovations, improved menus and expanded eateries on campus this week as UB’s dining services launched a multimillion-dollar initiative this summer. Between changes like a new Starbucks in the Health and Sciences Library and local produce substitutes across all three campuses, CDS is aiming to give students more bang for their buck when it comes to meal costs.
“We listen to the students and want the students to taste-test,” said Jeff Brady, the executive director of CDS. “It’s all about them since this is all for them.”
Brady said he noticed each incoming class of freshmen holds campus food to higher and higher standards. The CDS staff of more than 1,400 people tries to meet those standards through a healthier ever-changing menu and a wide variety of fresh foods.
GrubHub, an online food delivery company, ranked UB No. 1 in healthiest colleges in the country, according to the Time Lab, Time Magazine’s open-source data visualization site. GrubHub analyzed the delivery orders and saw of college students in the study ordering salads as side dishes and asking for light salad dressing, UB students were the majority. St. John’s University and University of California Davis were ranked No. 2 and No. 3 respectively.
UB’s Food Service program was voted No. 1 in SUNY University Centers according to a SUNY Student Opinion Survey in 2012. CDS also won two national awards in the42nd annual Lloyd E. Horton Dining Awards Contest, according to Brady.
CDS centered its new menus on taste-testing sessions with students and faculty over the summer. They brought out 10-15 new dishes and voted on the best dishes based on taste, presentation and price. The taste-testers were about 65 percent students and 45 percent faculty and staff.
Once CDS enhanced the menu, it started working on the atmosphere.
Seasons, a new fresh café and organic juice bar in the Center for the Arts, is one of the new additions.The juice is made with whole fruits and blended right in front of the customers. A colorful chalk-drawn menu made by an art student displays the many juices and other light breakfast options.
One of the newest and largest renovations occurred at Perks in the Ellicott Complex. The ice cream and coffee shop has been modernized into a spacious spot for students.More than $400,000 has gone into the Perks renovations, which includes remodeled seating areas, a touch screen ordering device and a Starbucks menu.
The popular demand for Starbucks products on campus led CDS to put one on the third floor of Capen Library and in Abbott Hall on South Campus. Both will open Jan. 1and are accepting Campus Cash, dining dollars and meal credits.
But Starbucks isn’t the only addition to South Campus.
After a flood of positive responses from students regarding Champa Sushi in the Student Union, CDS decided to bring one to Harriman Hall. The café now offers sushi and black rice – a healthier rice made with vinegar.
New open-air coolers with LED lighting were also implemented in the cafés in Harriman Hall and Capen Hall to keep the food colder and allow students to grab it quickly and get in line.
Even with all the new changes, students feel there is room for improvement.
“I like the food in general,” said Anna Drewitz, a sophomore architecture major. “I just wish there was a fruit bar, like an Edgy Veggies for fruits.”
Adam Mitcheson, a sophomore computer science major, thinks adding more Starbucks locations is a great idea, but since he doesn’t spend too much time in the library, he may not be a popular customer.
“I would like to see a bigger Tim Hortons, I don’t like the long lines,” Mitcheson said.
CDS noticed one of the most popular features in C3 is the compost stream in which students scrape their food waste into. CDS has brought it to Goodyear Dining Hall on South Campus.
In an attempt to reduce food waste during the first week of classes, students will dispose their food onto a scale. CDS will weigh the amount of food students throw away and the dining hall that produces the least amount of waste will receive a reward, such as Dippin’ Dots.
Since not all students have time to wait in the long lines, CDS has made vending machines more accessible with a wider variety of options. CDS purchased new vending machines more than a year ago from Aramark Refreshment Services and there are now 278vending machines in total on all three campuses, according to Brady.
CDS asked students for brand name suggestions and came up with UB Snackin’. All of the machines on campus were later rebranded with this name.
“When you think of vending machines, you think of not-so-healthy,” Brady said. “We had a nutritionist and managers [who] wanted to make two [rows] in every machine healthy.”
These machines contain two rows of healthy choices such as nuts, baked chips, and Nature Valley bars. The goal is to give students healthier options, rather than limit student options altogether.
CDS has also paid close attention to the shelf displays in the dining areas, according to Brady. The healthier options, such as Veggie Straws, are on top and the less-healthy choices, like Doritos, are on the bottom of the shelves.
CDS also aimed to have a focus on local products. Adam Coats, assistant director of the CDS team, focused on homegrown products that paint a picture of campus food that is fresh and New York State grown.
CDS has made connections all over Western New York with various farms and companies to support local businesses and obtain fresh products. Rather than typical brands such as Nestle or Hershey for candy or chocolate treats, snacks come from The Basket Company, a New York/Pennsylvania-based company.
These healthier options are being incentivized through a new loyalty program that started this year. For every dollar spent, a point is awarded. You can redeem these points for over 50 items at Campus Tees and they roll over from year to year.
This program isn’t only for the rewards, but is built to create better eating habits.
“When we talked to a nutritionist, we found that it’s extremely important to have breakfast,” Brady said. “We try to do a couple things, which is encourage them to go to breakfast, then on the same token we want to reward them because it helps to pick up our counts.”
CDS found students are always in a rush first thing in the morning and either go to Tim Hortons or straight to the bus. If students go to C3 for breakfast, they get four points towards their loyalty reward. CDS wants to encourage students to eat a fuller breakfast, Brady said.
In addition to healthier food, Brady hopes to improve the drink options around campus. CDS replaced one of the soda options in the fountain drink machines with unsweetened Brisk and hopes to continue replacing the soda options with healthier juices and teas. Eventually, Brady hopes UB stops selling soda products altogether.
“There are always going to be people who want it and we can’t just stop selling it cold turkey,” Brady said. “We hope to take one or two out per semester and see how students feel about it.”
Everything CDS decides is based upon a committee of students who approve ideas, taste food and act as “mystery diners” to on-campus locations, according to Brady. Members of this committee are pulled from various SA clubs to gain some insight on what students are enjoying around campus and what still needs work.
Mystery diners allow CDS to receive feedback on service, food quality and students’ overall dining experience.
“What I like about it so much is that a student can come into my office, tell me the issue immediately and then we can fix it right away instead of having fifteen other people have the same issue,” Brady said.
Gabriela Julia is the senior news editor and Tori Roseman is the senior features editor. Comments and questions about this article can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org