On-campus food outlets match student interests

Concern about on-campus dining is an age-old issue at the University of Miami. But it’s one problem that is quickly becoming nonexistent.

“Dining touches everyone- students, faculty, staff, parents when they visit,” said Ana Alvarez, director of auxiliary services.

At the end of fall 2010, a new auxiliary services executive director, Sandra Redway, was appointed. Together with the recently inaugurated Student Government executive board, the Department of Dining Services is readily facing the challenge of satisfying its clientele.

“We have determined the need to develop a master plan for dining options on the Coral Gables campus that entails not only the dining halls but also retail. So, a task force was formed,” Redway said. “It was critical that we got representation from undergraduate, graduate, law, on-campus and off-campus students.”

Following meetings with several students through the task force and several town hall meetings, Redway and Alvarez have developed a communicative approach to addressing dining worries.

“We are trying to increase the source of communication that we have with students,” said senior Kesem Omer, chair of the Dining Services Advisory Board. “We really want to convey to students what is out there.”

Dining services and Chartwells, the on-campus foodservice, have already implemented the first part of this master dining plan through its Balanced U initiative, which educates students on how to eat healthy through flyers in the dining halls and other resources online at dineoncampus.com/miami. Nutritional information for dining hall food can also be found on that website. This fall, students will have the opportunity to create their own personalized nutritional profile online and track their meals.

Balanced U also identifies food options in the dining halls with one of four labels: balanced (foods balanced in nutrients and size), sustainable (options that contain a sustainable ingredient such as local produce or sustainable seafood), vegetarian or vegan.

Dining services, in conjunction with Chartwells, has also made the following culinary enhancements to food options in the dining halls in order to further its dining program: a pasta and pizza station that includes whole wheat pasta and new vegan and vegetarian sauces; chilis and chowders at Souped Up; homemade veggie burgers as well as new sides for grilled specialties at The Grill; gluten-free bread at the Deli as well as a new whole wheat sub roll; brown rice or whole wheat pasta at Menutainment; and gluten-free and vegan salad dressings, an expanded toppings selection and new grain-based salads. These new additions will be available starting in the fall.

Another new change to dining services for the fall is the opportunity for commuters to purchase a Block Meal Plan. Commuters and University Village residents who want to dine at either the Hecht Stanford or Mahoney Pearson dining hall may purchase a 50 or 75 block meal plan, which consists of a block of meals which can be used throughout the semester wherever and whenever on campus. The 10 Block Refresh option can be added to either block plan at anytime throughout the semester if a student runs out of meals unexpectedly.

Along with developing its Balanced U project and new meal plan for commuters, dining services has been working with the new SG and its dining platforms, which include the addition of an on-campus dessert option, late-night food outlet and take-out dining.

“People have wanted it for years,” said junior Brandon Mitchell, recently elected SG president. “Coming from someone who lives on campus, if it’s midnight, I have nowhere to go except to get a bag of chips from the C-Store. And we want students to have options.”

In response to these needs, the Hecht Stanford Dining Hall will now be hosting late-night hours starting in the fall. Dining services will pilot this program by opening the dining hall in the early hours of the morning and will offer a brand new late-night menu.