By Cassy Sottile and Erica Quinones
The dining program on campus includes not only the dining hall in Hodson, but everything below it as well. Be it Java George, Create, or Martha’s Kitchen, all eating options fall beneath the umbrella of Dining Services.
When changes occur, they are widespread but do not always garner the expected attention.
In Hodson Hall Commons, all dining options were affected by updates to Dining Dollars. Most obviously, they now rollover between semesters.
There is also a new dining plan option focused on commuters, which is a $750 cash plan. Instead of meal swipes and Dining Dollars, it is straight currency to be used as pleased within Dining Services.
Dining options also changed. At Java George, the choice coffee brand is now Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company, selected for its taste and sustainability, according to Director of Dining Services Prince Johnson.
Additionally, a new vegetarian sandwich created by the Student Government Association is offered at Create.
At Martha’s, they are now open until midnight. However, they experienced unknown difficulties with student access to Hodson Hall Commons.
Dining Services was recently informed that the Commons is closed to students beginning at 11 p.m., according to Dining Services Office Manager Maria Hynson ’15. They are working with the College to fix this issue. The goal is to keep Martha’s open for its entire scheduled period.
Upstairs in the Dining Hall, Dining Services is creating more event meals in cooperation with student groups and organizations.
They are aiming for two major food events and around five minor events monthly, according to Executive Chef David McKenty. These events are sometimes small bits like the LGBT+ History Month desserts, or large events like the Oktoberfest dinner.
One consistent request from students regarding food is catering for allergen and dietary restrictions.
“Be your own advocate,” Hynson said.
There is always vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free options in the Dining Hall. Sometimes, according to McKenty, that food simply does not get put out.
Tofu, cauliflower-crust pizzas, and other compliant foods are available on request. They are not put out because they often get wasted sitting out.
Students are also not limited to what is made, according to Johnson. Different foods can be made with what is already out, or students can talk to a chef.
“We really encourage students to self identify. Let us know who you are, what your needs are, and more than like — if you cannot find something out front that appeals to you — we are more than happy to cook for you,” Johnson said. “Just because you do not see it, doesn’t mean you cannot have it.”
If there are concerns about possible allergens in prepared foods, students can ask any chef or sous chef about the ingredients. They receive allergen training annually and can look up the ingredients in prepared food, according to McKenty.
“We do not want anyone to go without and we do not want anyone to go without what they want,” McKenty said. “This is their dining experience.”
Regarding the eating environment, Dining Services is aware of the fruit fly issue in the Dining Hall.
They have an exterminator that visits frequently, and fruit fly-abating initiatives. However, because Washington College is an environmentally-friendly campus, there are limited chemicals they can use against the pests.
There is also a national problem with fruit flies in vegetation like broccoli and cauliflower, according to McKenty. While that food is cleaned carefully, it does not prevent flies from entering the building.
Dining Services has discussed getting air curtains, vents that blow a strong current when doors are opened to prevent “critters” from entering, but they are expensive and use a lot of energy.
There are also changes coming to how students eat.
Previously, Dining Services introduced green to-go boxes made of plastic. However, students were not returning them to the Dining Hall. Instead, many got thrown away or left in dorm rooms for the entire year.
Because of the cost, Dining Services switched to compostable sugarcane boxes. They do plan on bringing the plastic reusable containers back in Spring 2020; however, they would be purchasable via Dining Dollars, and cleaned by the Dining Hall like last year.
They are also implementing a new app called “Shared Meals.” The application is part of the Hunger and Homelessness initiative and allows catering or student organizations to set up time frames where students can get free left over meals, and students to share meal swipes with others, according to Assistant Dining Director Kayla Young.
The packaged and delivered meals program is also still functioning. If students are sick, they can go through Health Services or call the Dining Hall to have a meal package and delivered to them.
DiningServices’ primary message is to communicate. Talk to them directly, answer the semester survey, and reach out. If an organization wants to see a special dining event, reach out and make it.
Again, Dining Services stresses to “be your own advocate.”