By MAX FREW
With the student population at St. Lawrence continuously growing, Dana Dining Hall has an increasing need for a change. When Dana was opened in 2000 it was meant to provide for a student population around 1800. But the St. Lawrence community has already expanded to over 2200 students this year, with another expected increase next year. It is possible that because the number of students keeps rising while Dana stays the same that the food company’s only concern has become getting the food available while sacrificing the potentially great quality. But for $54,000 a year for tuition, should food service be an issue?
One large concern is the healthiness of the food. Yes, Dana offers a salad bar as well as the sandwich station. But there is also always pizza and the main meal is usually fried and fatty. For instance tonight’s menu offers, amongst other things, beef tips with gravy, crescent fries with gravy, pepperoni Panini, philly cheese steak, grilled burritos, and marinara with meatballs.
Michael Petroni ’12 says, “While people are starting to realize that a lot of health problems are rising from the food we are eating… the whole dining system is extremely difficult to break out from it.” Petroni suggests, “Making a transition to more locally grown and grass fed food, as well as more “in kitchen” cooking. Other schools have already started to make the switch. For instance in Suny Potsdam “Dexter Cafe” has opend, which uses locally grown material as much as possible. “Billy’s” sandwich shop which recently opened in Potsdam is already planning to open another shop in Canton which will hopefully take stress off Dana as well as provide a new local eatery.
When comparing Dana to Frank Dining Hall of Colgate, there are some large differences, one of the biggest being that Dana does not have an executive chef. Michael Stagnaro is the head chef at Colgate and has been cooking there for over ten years. While the need of an executive chef is debatable, according to Pamela Rowe, the Operations Manager at Colgate, “The importance of an executive chef depends on a lot of things, the number of meals served, the level of service you want to provide, and the diversity you want to show.”
Having a chef seems to be paying off for Colgate. Three students from Colgate, Anant Singh ‘14, Mike Kratky ‘14, and Jake Harvey ’14 all gave their dining hall positive reviews, “College food is college food, but Stagnaro knows what he is doing and we are lucky to have him.” Says Singh.
Over 20 were interviewed regarding St. Lawrence dining facilities. 19 of them said Dana needs improvement.
Russell Woeltz ‘13 says, “Just because I eat at Dana everyday does not mean I love it. Dana simply offers you the most bang for your buck and I feel like a lot of college students can’t afford to be spending extra at the pub when Dana is offering all you can eat, despite bad quality.”
Some students express that Dana servces a very specific surface. “Dana is good for team meals” says Liz Laprade ’14, “especially after practice because you can get as much recovery food and drink as you need.”
Other students prefer the Northstar Café, often referred to as the pub. “In terms of campus food I prefer the Pub over Dana because I’m able to customize the food I’ll be eating more at the Pub.” Says John Curle ‘12 “Dana’s buffet style leaves little room in terms of creativity and the Pub allows me to eat what I want, when I want.”
Other students encourage getting more creative at Dana. Alli Shea ’13, often makes a dipping oil with pesto, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar with friends. “It makes for a fun appetizer with friends,” says Shea.
Professor Erik Backlund, a Environmental Studies professor, frequently goes to eat at Dana. He says, “Having actually eaten at multiple food services at different universities, the food [here] is actually really good.”
While students may have mixed reviews of the quality of food at Dana, however the one constant agreement is that it is no longer big enough.
“There is going to be a committee forming and it is going to have students, dining staff and faculty will be on it,” says Cindy Atkins, director of Dining and Conference Services, “it is going to discus where dining services should go in the future with the increase of students.” Currently Dana is working at 120 percent of its original capacity, according to Atkins. There are times when Dana has no seats available and the line for multiple food stations take over 20 minutes. “While I know the prep school world has an unreal sense of what they deserve, but a school that charges $54,000 a year, there should not be a problem with getting students high quality food.” said Elizabeth Frew of the Taft School.
Dana Dining Hall is up for an official review to make the changes student speak about. The National Association Of College & University Food Services (NACUFS) satisfaction survey is currently taking place and Cindy Atkins encourages everyone to partake in it. With the undeniable need to expand, St. Lawrence will have a chance to rebuild its main dining facility with all the reviews in mind.