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April 27, 2012
Vol. 53 No. 22

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Alternative food options scarce in area

Try to imagine going to an all-you-can-eat buffet for dinner, watching your friends choose from numerous selections and only being able to pick from the salad portion.
That is the reality some students have said they face when it comes to eating alternatively both in the Selinsgrove area and on campus.
Aramark is Susquehanna's food service provider and, as stated on the corporation's official website, is "a multi-national corporation, with over 260,000 employees serving clients across 22 countries."
On its webpage for Higher Education dining services, it is written that Aramnark utilizes "a world-class team of culinarians and registered dietitians to create innovative menu items that reflect how students eat on each campus." The site also states that Aramark is committed to giving campuses a wide range of healthy options for their students that can fit their eating styles.
While agreeing that healthy options are present on campus, sophomore Katie Taylor said she finds it difficult for all alternative eating lifestyles to be satisfied by the campus fare.
As a vegetarian, Taylor said she eats in Evert Dining Hall and Benny's Bistro more frequently than Clyde's or The Periodic Table but that the options available for her are sometimes lacking.
"[Evert Dining Hall] has lots and lots of carbs, while Benny's has a large variety of meals--not enough support the non-meateaters," she said.
Another student, who asked that her name to be withheld, said she has been vegetarian for more than five years and that eating in Evert is a challenge.
She said, "The majority of the time, I'm eating from the salad bar because there's nothing else."
There is a vegetarian section in Evert, usually providing one vegetarian option during the week's lunches and dinners, as well as other non-meat options. Students are able to look at what is available ahead of time online on CampusDish, a webportal that is managed by the university dining office. The website provides access to information on all dining locations on campus, meal plans, Crusader Cash balance, and the daily menus for Evert Dining Room, Benny's Bistro and Clyde's, along with nutritional information available for the meals served in Evert.
Like with all the other food sections available in Evert, the vegetarian selection goes through a cycle of certain options. According to Taylor, the issue isn't being repetitious; it's the lack of quality and choices.
"While I do appreciate the diversity in the food ethnically, the consistency seems to stay the same," Taylor said.
In the March 16, 2012 issue of The Crusader, it was stated that the spring 2011 survey of student opinions showed food service is one of several areas that students have the lowest satisfaction with, ranking 3.34 out of 5, slightly higher than the national norm.
Junior Emily Snyder said she doesn't have an alternative diet but agrees that the lack of more healthy choices is blatant.
"I don't think they have a lot of fresh fruit options and everything is canned," Snyder said. "The bananas are either rotten or green all the time. Who wants to eat a green or rotten banana?"
According to Aramark's website, the dining service "constantly seeks ways to understand its consumers and meet their various nutrition needs and dietary preferences. The company's menu database includes thousands of recipes that meet a variety of consumer demands, including hundreds of selections that fit vegetarian and vegan lifestyles."
A student with a lactose-free, low glycolic index, and vegetarian diet, who said she wished for her name to be withheld, said of Evert, "Though there are a lot of carbs there and not many of them are low-glycolic, I'm more likely to find some vegetarian protein there than I am anywhere else."
Taylor said: "The hummus to-go containers are my favorite, but it should also be offered on sandwiches to create."
Hummus is now a more common option on campus. Benny's Bistro recently started offering hummus wraps and sandwiches, and The Periodic Table also offers humus sandwiches.
For the lactose-free student, it's difficult to find something both tasty and healthy due to fewer available options that she enjoys eating.
She said: "I really struggle to find protein, especially healthy protein. I don't want to eat fried tofu, just tofu that has been flavored. I realize that I have to fend for myself. It's just disappointing when you take into account the thousands of dollars for the meal plan, when I still have to go off campus and buy things I can eat. I'm not a picky eater either. The problem is that I have so many dietary restrictions and want to eat healthy."
Very few students had complaints about Clyde's and generally agreed that they knew what type of food was offered there. The lactose-free student, however, said that it took her a long while to find something she could eat there and doesn't usually go because she has to special order black beans with grilled veggies on lettuce.
The Periodic Table, located in the Natural Science Building, offers coffee, baked goods, pastries, gourmet sandwiches, paninis and deluxe garden fresh salads, similar to options at the restaurant Panera Bread.
"While I would like for there to have a vegetarian panini option, the salads and sandwiches complement that alright," Taylor said.
Mike Coyne, Susquehanna's vice president for finance, said that he believes Aramark works very well with students, especially those with dietary restrictions.
"Given the growing population of vegetarians and vegans on our campus and the fact that we are becoming so environmentally aware, I believe Aramark should be doing more to communicate with the student population in terms of food choices," Taylor said.
The lactose-free student agreed, adding that another issue she had with finding appropriate meals on campus was figuring out what meals were vegetarian or lactose-free and what wasn't.
She said: "There are no labels on anything. I really wish food was labeled with a 'V' or little 'v' for vegetarian and vegan or an 'L' for lactose like you would find on a nutrition label at Wegmans. It's frustrating because I don't know if they put beef stock in the mushroom soup, and the student workers can't tell me, so I would have to run to Aramark every time I want to eat and ask what's in it."
Snyder stated that she has never gone to approach anyone about her concerns because she doesn't know whom to talk to.
"To a lot of people, college food is college food," she said.
Taylor said the need for more varied alternative diet options on campus is necessary.


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