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Updated 10:00 AM September 12, 2005
 

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Fresh, convenient foods on menu for students

Fresh is where it's at these days when it comes to hungry U-M students who want a myriad of dining opportunities to suit their busy lifestyles, and who have an appreciation for creativity and quality in foods.

As the University begins the process of upgrading its residence halls and dining centers, the changing tastes and preferences of today's students—high-quality and a wide variety of menu options, available at hours convenient to their busy schedules—will factor into the design of new facilities.

To gather student opinion on dining at U-M, University Housing surveyed 2,400 students, conducted a dozen focus groups, studied 93 area retail food outlets and considered how 11 peer institutions are handling dining services. The results: make it fresh and healthy, make it easy, and make it available all day.

To accommodate these requests, U-M is launching a platform arrangement for its full-scale new dining facilities, offering students more fresh and seasonal selections. Each platform will feature a particular food or serving style with made-to-order foods, quick and casual and fast-food markets, cyber cafes, all-you-care-to-eat depots and vegetarian, kosher, ethnic and all-day dining.
"No longer will staff be only on the 'back line.' They will be face-to-face with the customer. ...
We want people to be excited about what they see and what they eat."
— Steven Meyers, Housing executive chef

"More food will be prepared in front of the customer," says Ruth Blackburn, U-M Housing nutrition specialist. "This will involve 'display' cooking where items are finished off in front of the students." This arrangement, Blackburn says, not only will be attractive to diners, but also will allow those people with food allergies to choose the ingredients that go into a mixed dish, such as stir-fry or fajitas.

Leaning toward the Euro kitchen model, future U-M dining centers will have a hearth oven for finishing off pizza and calzones; a grill station for broiled, grilled and fried items; and a carving station for entrees. There also will be ethnic choices with Mexican and Asian fusion stations set up on the familiar "BD's Mongolian Barbeque" restaurant concept. Items for a soup, salad and deli station will address the needs of those with vegan and vegetarian preferences.

"The offerings at the various stations will not be the same each day," says Blackburn, but will be on a rotating basis. "They will give the diner more freedom to be creative and flexible within the choices."

With the changes, Dining Services will continue working with the Multi-Ethnic Student Association for items aligned with heritage months and with the M-Smart program for healthy eating. Careful labeling for allergens will be continued, and opportunities for student involvement will continue with the Vegetarian/Vegan Education Group and Student Nutrition Awareness Committee—both of which offer students input into dining facility menu decisions and nutrition programming.

Not only will U-M students witness a transformation in residence hall dining, but Dining Services staff will experience changes, too. "No longer will staff be only on the 'back line,'" says Steven Meyers, Housing executive chef. "They will be face-to-face with the customer. They will be working in front of the customers. We want people to be excited about what they see and what they eat. There will be no more pans of food on the line," Meyers says. "Now we will be displaying our talents."

In addition to changes in the major dining centers, other café and quick-food opportunities will be offered by University Housing on both the North and Central campuses. Offerings will include beverages, packaged snacks, ice cream, baked goods, microwaveable meals and even prepared hot items, depending on the facility. The facilities will have extended hours to accommodate eating habits and busy schedules.

Some food operations already in place have begun to offer convenience foods. At Café ConXion, adjoining the South Quad dining hall, there are Freshëns smoothies, Starbucks and Fair Trade Coffee, pastries and deli sandwiches. Café ConXion offers snacks, beverages, and healthy entrees to eat in or take out.

The North Star in Vera Baits I offers Starbucks coffee, snack items, hot dogs, microwaveable meals, pastries, bagels, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, frozen entrees, pre-made sandwiches, fresh fruit, assorted beverages and Chinese from Lucky Kitchen. A variety of household, personal care items, cleaning supplies, over-the-counter medications and other grocery items also are available.

Alice's Place on the first floor of Alice Lloyd Hall offers breakfast items and a large selection of sandwiches, chips, candy, pastries, snacks and drinks. And East Quad's Halfway Inn provides a wide variety of deli sandwiches, grilled items, snacks, drinks and vegetarian, vegan and meat entrees in a café-style setting that features wireless Internet connections.

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