By MaryAlice Bitts
Photos by Carl Socolow ’77
Ask ten people to describe the perfect meal, and you’ll likely receive ten different answers. How, then, does Dickinson’s dining-services staff manage to feed so many people every day, each with individual tastes and dietary needs?
Some of the folks who make that happen offered answers during a March 8 panel discussion, Feeding Dickinson.
Panelists Jennifer Halpin, director of the Dickinson College Farm; Keith Martin, director of dining services; Jay Myers of Feeser’s Inc.; Scott Wagner of John Gross & Co.; and Ben Riggs ’86 of Four Seasons Produce Distributors discussed the challenges inherent to planning, coordinating, preparing and serving thousands of meals each day for students and employees.
Martin noted that planning and timing are key to preparing food in mass quantities and—serving all of those entrees, side dishes and desserts at the desired temperatures. The biggest challenge, however, lies in the menu-planning process, as staff works to create varied, nutritious meals that are both palatable to a large, diverse population and meet individuals’ expressed special-diet needs and preferences.
To meet these diverse needs, the Dining Hall has more than 20 stations, including the Local Produce Stand, The Kove (certified-kosher and vegan), the whole-grain bar, Wok bar, local-produce stand, panini station and carving station. Dining Services also runs four snack bars on campus and caters many special events throughout the year, including the annual Holiday Banquet. And, as Halpin noted, the certified-organic Dickinson College Farm and Dining Services work together to incorporate fresh, organic College Farm food into the Dickinson diet; Dining Services also uses other local food vendors whenever possible and observes sustainable practices such as composting.
Clearly, Dining Services staff has a lot on its plate (yes, pun intended). However, Martin stressed, feeding Dickinson well is not only an important task, but also a labor of love. “My mantra is, ‘This isn’t food. It’s life,’ ” he said.