Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Colleges upgrade food choices -- thanks to student demand

It's a long-arc trend: food on college campuses has gotten a lot more interesting, and healthier, since the days when I was an undergrad. Although on the campus where I teach, students have plenty of not-so-healthy fast-food options, they also choose from salad bars and "square meals" that include cooked vegetables and fresh fruit. Now some college students have taken up the foodie banner and are demanding gourmet fare as well. Here's an excerpt from an Associated Press article about the trend to diversify (and localize) campus food choices. Click here to link to the full piece.

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (AP) - Not all college students are willing to live on cold pizza, ramen noodles and greasy takeout.

Some, like Wesleyan University junior Nica Latto, prefer wedges of locally produced artisanal cheeses added to the mix, perhaps a gouda with a slightly nutty undertone or a Gruyere for a fondue party while studying with classmates.

So to satisfy palates that lean more gourmet than grub, Latto and several friends organized a co-op in which fancy cheeses from a nearby Connecticut farm are delivered each week to the Middletown campus and distributed to students, many of whom line up with baguettes - and meal cards - in hand.

While universities nationwide have updated their dining hall menus to meet the increasingly epicurean expectations of students like Latto, many students are also taking things a step further and bringing fancy fare to campus on their own.

For some, it means launching co-ops to get everything from fair-trade coffee to fancy herbs or hand-rolled butter from nearby farms. For others, it means collaborating with the vendors who stock their dorm cafeterias to get quinoa, kohlrabi or other non-traditional items on their menus.

In California, a student-run collective near the University of California, Berkeley, gained scores of members as soon as it opened last winter, the legacy of students' fight against fast casual chain Panda Express' now-dashed 2009 plans to open a site there.

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