Source: Red & Black
Posted: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 3:00 pm
University of Georgia picked up another accolade for its food with a No. 17 ranking on The Daily Meal’s “75 Best Colleges for Food in America for 2014.”
So far this year, UGA placed sixth on Niche.com’s 2014 list of colleges for the best quality food, fifth out of the top 10 most gluten-free accommodating colleges in 2014 by Udi’s Gluten Free.com and was recognized as one of the 15 healthiest food service operators by Food Service Director Magazine, a distinction only one other university shares. “We will always strive to be the best for our customers, so yes we are happy to be ranked 17, but it would be great to be higher,” said Allison Harper, marketing director for UGA Food Services. In the article, The Daily Meal credits UGA for its Georgia Grown initiative, having 100 percent compostable waste, its themed events, 24-hour schedule at Snelling Dining Commons and the new Bolton Dining Commons. The website ranked UGA No. 16 on its 2012 list and No. 23 in 2013. The Daily Meal could not be reached for comment on its process for making the 2014 list as of press time, but Nina Fomufod, author of the 2012 list, said in a previous Red & Black article that the site considered previous reviews and articles as well as schools’ awards for food, sustainability and service when creating the list. Fomufod said in the article that UGA didn’t rank higher in 2012 because it lacked some of the amenities other schools offered. “It’s not specifically that there was anything bad [about the University], but it’s more the higher up [on the list] you go, the more amenities there are,” she said in the article. “It’s just things like that which put other schools above.” In 2014, UGA came out just behind Vanderbilt University at No. 15, the only other SEC school on the list, but only ranked third among schools in Georgia after Kennesaw State University at No. 4 and Emory University at No. 11. They were also the third public university listed, with only Kennesaw State, University of California at Los Angeles at No. 13, and James Madison University at No. 16 placing higher. “I thought [UGA] would be higher than that,” said Levi Wetherington, a freshman from Moultrie. “You hear coming into college that the food sucks, but it’s been really good so far.”
The record for sales of seven-day meal plans was broken this year, with 7,571 students signed up as of Aug. 19, Harper said. She expects this number to continue to grow through the first two weeks of classes and that UGA’s unlimited access to food on the meal plan sets it apart from other schools.
“Students are able to come in as they please. There’s no declining balance, no meal equivalency, no penalty for not trying something,” she said. “So they can come in, they can socialize with their friends, if they see a friend they can come back in, there’s no pressure on the meal plan.”
Katherine Ingerson, a UGA Food Services registered dietitian, also pointed out the wide array of choices the meal plan offers students, something Wetherington and fellow freshman Ajara Ceesay from Atlanta also mentioned. “It’s not like you have to eat in one dining hall to get the healthy options,” Ingerson said.
In addition to providing food options, UGA also has different ways to dispose of food waste. As of April, UGA Food Services is using 100 percent compostable materials, replacing the old ketchup and mustard packets with dispensers and switching to plastic-free tea bags. All waste is now taken from the dining commons and sent to a bioconversion center for use as compost on campus. Other Food Services initiatives include the Georgia Grown program, which labels all items on the meal plan that are grown in Georgia with a “Georgia Grown” sticker, and the new nutrition information stations set up on iPads in the dining halls. Eco-friendly and health initiatives coupled with the new Bolton Dining Commons provide options unique from dining halls at other schools.
“The big thing about Bolton, I would say, is all the food is cooked out in front, so instead of having a large production kitchen in the back where the food is prepped and brought out, each station is cooking the food right there in front of the students,” Harper said.
The new Bolton also provides a Sunday night dinner service, previously unavailable on UGA’s meal plan, with no price increase from the 2013-2014 academic year. “Since I’m paying for the meal plan, it makes me feel good that it’s nationally recognized and makes me feel proud to be a bulldog,” Ceesay said.