Unique offerings keep St. Cloud State University’s menu healthy, diverse – St. Cloud Times
Locally-sourced, healthy options part of everyday menu produced by Chartwells at St. Cloud State University
Dave Schwarz, firstname.lastname@example.org
People often joke about the ravenous appetite of teenagers and college students. At St. Cloud State University, it’s no joke: Chartwells serves over 5,000 meals a day to the university’s hungry students and faculty, plus community members.
With such a large customer base, it is vital that the menu offerings on campus continue to hold their attention.
“Generation Z is the biggest foodie generation,” said Laura Wacker-Hansen, marketing director and registered dietitian for Chartwells Schools Dining Services, the company that provides all on-campus dining and catering for St. Cloud State University.
Wacker-Hansen regularly meets with students who have nutrition questions or dietary needs, from food allergies to weight loss to specialty diets.
“More than ever, students at SCSU are looking for healthy, flavorful, and sustainable food options,” Wacker-Hansen said.
If students are indeed seeking options that showcase taste and nutrition, it seems they’ve come to the right place: According to Jeffery Hilligoss, resident district manager at Chartwells, there are plenty of choices on campus.
Beyond the various coffee shops, which proudly brew Caribou Coffee and Starbucks coffee, and convenience stores, St. Cloud State University also boasts restaurants like Erbert & Gerbert’s, Chick-fil-A, and The Den by Denny’s.
The university’s main dining hall, Garvey Commons, serves four meals a day (breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night), according to Hilligoss. There, foods are separated into stations by style.
“We offer halal-prepared foods, we have a vegan and vegetarian station, we have our G8 station, we have kosher pre-packaged meals … and of course we offer a pizza station, pasta station, grill station and entree stations,” Hilligoss said.
The G8 station, which Wacker-Hansen oversees, is among the most specialized stations at Garvey Commons.
“That station features food prepared without the top eight allergens — gluten, soy, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts and dairy,” Wacker-Hansen said.
In addition to the G8 station, all stations at Garvey Commons feature menu boards with icons that help diners with restrictions quickly identify safe options.
“That makes it easy for students to identify vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and ‘balanced’ items at each of our stations,” Wacker-Hansen said, adding that menus are cycled frequently at the 15 different stations.
Wacker-Hansen’s favorite station is Terre Ve, the vegetarian and vegan station at Garvey.
“Some of my favorites (at Terre Ve) include wild mushroom polenta, buffalo cauliflower, and citrus kale salad,” said Wacker-Hansen. “I am not a vegetarian or vegan, but I still get food from this station almost every day.”
Other popular stations? Anything ethnic, according to Wacker-Hansen.
“A lot of students would say that our Mongolian grill in Garvey is their favorite station,” she said. “Where else in town can you get made-to-order stir-fry for such a great price?”
Global foods can be found at other stations around Garvey: During lunch service on Oct. 4, students could chow down on curry-roasted potato vegetable stew at the soup station; broccoli, lemon and garlic penne pasta at the “comfort foods” station; and pork carnitas at the G8 station.
The abundance of farming in Central Minnesota allows St. Cloud State University to use local produce, HIlligoss said.
“Once a week, our executive chef does a special menu for an ‘action station’, which includes the super-food of the month,” he said, adding that the super-food highlighted in September was tomatoes. “We’re showcasing locally grown tomatoes in Garvey Commons. All our local farmers are within a 50-mile radius of campus. We’re doing dishes every day this week with tomatoes.”
Halal and kosher foods are also served on campus; Garvey features a halal station, and while the kosher meals offered there and at the Outtakes Market on campus are pre-packaged, it’s “only because we don’t have a rabbi on campus,” according to Hilligoss.
Although Chartwells is contractually obligated to provide halal and kosher meals to students, Wacker-Hansen says her interest in offering diverse menu options goes far beyond the fine print.
“It is so important for all of our students to feel welcome, and included, while they’re here on campus,” she said. “Gathering and eating food together is such an important part of creating community.”
While Wacker-Hansen’s job as liaison between the student community and their dining options can be challenging, she likens it to an experience felt universally by the students she serves.
“I think all college students face a similar challenge when they first get to school,” she said. “For the first time, they’re completely in control of what they eat. A lot of students start to realize that being mindful of what you eat is more important than what they previously thought.”
And if the food offerings on the St. Cloud State University campus are making your mouth water, don’t worry — you don’t need a student ID to pile up a plate at Garvey Commons.
“Garvey Commons is open to everyone, not just residential students!” Wacker-Hansen said. “Anyone is welcome to come and enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner, seven days a week.”
Follow Alyssa Zaczek on Twitter @sctimesalyssa, email her at email@example.com, or call her at (320) 255-8761.