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Emily L Goes to College

February 8, 2019

This week, I got an email from Emily L with her most recent guest post. What’s funny is that I was just talking with another friend about how poor I was in college and the crap I ate to try and get by.

One of my main goals in college was to try as hard as I could to graduate without taking on debt. Was that a good idea? I don’t know. It did give me the flexibility to hold out for my dream job in San Francisco, where I got a foot in the door of the advertising industry.

On the flip side, in addition to working a handful of various jobs, it meant eating fifteen cent ramen noodles out the package, snacking on margarine sandwiches, and smearing some eggy potato salad on a hard roll for filling meal. It’s not that there wasn’t a lot of spending money for food, there wasn’t a lot of spending money period.

But Emily’s post is about the other side of college dining, the college cafeteria. I have fond memories of mine, because I was on the one meal a day plan, and I would easily take in a day’s worth of calories and nutrition. Which helps to explain how I could survive on ramen, margarine, and potato salad.

Recently, Emily checked out the Upper Class dining hall at Union College and here is her report.

College Food 2.0
By Emily L

College was a blast. Amazing friends, new experiences, and copious amount of unhealthy delicious food. Almost every event I went to featured free pizza. Our student center hosted a Quiznos, a fast-food Asian chain, a bagel shop, a fried chicken restaurant, and an ice cream shop. Our cafeterias had traditional college fare including burgers, hot dogs, fries, pizza, and breakfast 24/7. I think the cafe in my dorm did have a salad bar, but it was so small, I don’t even remember it. When I wanted to have a healthy meal, I went to Quiznos for a salad loaded with cheese, chicken, mayo-based caesar dressing, pieces of flatbread, and a cup of broccoli-cheddar soup on the side. Needless to say, I gained 40 pounds in college.

I recently visited Union College for an event. I was blown away by food services there. Under the new supervision of professional trained chefs, Union has made a commitment to serve local products including meat, dairy, and produce. They encourage students to learn how to cook balanced meals themselves with make your own stir fry stations with clearly marked meats, grains, veggies, and sauces. Even more amazing? Every product had an ingredient list and calorie count per serving on it.

I got to eat at one of the dining halls known as Upper Class located on the second floor of the student center. While it is a traditional “all you can eat” dining hall, most students simply help themselves to one serving. The largest stations predominantly included fresh vegetables and vegan options. The salad bar (which we all know I have a soft spot in my heart for) took up an entire side of the cafeteria and featured everything from quinoa to sun-dried tomatoes to five different types of leafy greens. Yes, there were still quite a few heavy mayo-based dressings, but the amount of fresh produce available rivaled the salad bar of Whole Foods.

Disappointingly (but good for my health), the only small station was for desserts, merely a selection of cookies and brownies and some freezer burnt ice cream.

Yes, portion control was still an issue in an all you can eat environment. But no one seemed to be going overboard. Yes, there were still traditional hamburgers and fries. But alongside of these dishes were steamed broccoli and homemade soups.

Union College is stepping up their game. And the best part is that you don’t even have to be a college student to try their food. Upper Class dining hall is open to the public for lunch hours Monday-Friday. While it may not be on the top of my culinary must-dos in Schenectady, it certainly did not disappoint.

Ooh. I’d be really curious to see those stir fry stations. The blurb on the Union College website says that this is called Chef U, and here’s how they describe it:

Guests will be the star chefs at Chef U. Encouraged to try their hand at making Chef-inspired daily specials; our guests can prepare their own dishes as simply or as intricately as they dare. Through the multiple sauté stations, this unique area will heighten patrons engagement and may even spur a little competition.

I’m always down for a little friendly competition. Speaking of which, there will be more competition news coming next week. Not least of which was the Tour de Wings, but there’s something else I’m getting involved with for the very first time, and I’m super excited.

Have a great weekend. And don’t forget Schenectady Beer Week continues through Sunday. Maybe I’ll see you there. Cheers!

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 8, 2019 5:05 pm

    Do the students actually get to man the sauté pans? At UMass (consistently rated the best college food in the country) they will let you pick ingredients, but then they cook them up for you.

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