DDS introduces new changes for fall

by Alex Fredman | 9/19/17 2:00am

by Carolyn Silverstein / The Dartmouth

When he started work last fall as the new director of Dartmouth Dining Services, Jon Plodzik says he found the Courtyard Café to be, visually speaking, the weakest part of the campus dining experience at Dartmouth.

Now, after a roughly $25,000 renovation and significant changes to the menu, Plodzik said the Courtyard Café — often referred to as the Hop by students — has moved in the direction of recent dining industry trends, such as healthy eating and smaller portions.

For returning students, this transformation is one of several new developments at DDS locations this fall. To Plodzik, finding opportunities for change is something that DDS has embraced and should continue to do.

“The desire to continually improve this program is nothing new,” Plodzik said.

The most significant part of the Courtyard Café renovations was the removal of the sandwich station, which also featured taco salads and burritos. This station has been replaced by an employee-served salad bar, and the café’s checkout station was moved to the location of the old salad bar.

Plodzik said that only a few of the options offered at the old sandwich station were popular among students, and that the station had “lived its lifespan.” He added, however, that prepared subs will now be found in the café’s cooler across from the grill.

Replacing the sub sandwiches with salad options is a contemporary and unique idea, Plodzik said. He added that he hopes this change will attract students looking to eat a lighter or healthier meal.

Yet if there’s anything the Courtyard Café is known for, it’s the often-long line for the grill’s hearty selections. DDS’s desire to incorporate healthy choices prompted changes to this area as well. A larger selection of healthier options like grilled chicken sandwiches were added to the menu, and out went higher-calorie items such as breakfast wraps, though the “bob” wraps were recently brought back due to student demand.

Beth Rosenberger, the staff dietician at DDS, said that some meals at the grill can land in the range of 1,500 to 1,800 calories, an amount she said is more than most students should consume in one sitting. She added that many Dartmouth students simply are not aware of the potential health hazards associated with their dietary choices.

Plodzik said that he believes DDS should play an educational role when it comes to healthy eating by providing more opportunities for students to do so. He also noted that some of these changes can provide other benefits – for example, the decision to only serve four ounce instead of eight ounce burgers at the Grill is not only healthier, but can also reduce wait times by increasing the speed of preparation.

As with the Courtyard Café, DDS has also made a number of changes in the food selection at the Class of 1953 Commons — often referred to as Foco — beginning this term. These include the introduction of Goose and Willie’s bagels, locally-branded coffee, locally-based Gifford’s ice cream, as well as new items at the “grill and world view” areas. Plodzik said that many of these new options are purchased as part of DDS’s overall efforts to incorporate more regionally-produced foods into their dining areas.

DDS also made some physical updates at ’53 Commons, including new sound systems, televisions in the upstairs eating area and booths in the south dining room. Plodzik said that having an enjoyable experience and building community are important aspects to dining on campus.

“I really want people to think about ’53 Commons as the gem of our program,” Plodzik said.

Another significant change at ’53 Commons is the introduction of a new take-out system. Pioneered by Madison Sabol ’18, the new program — called Green2Go — brought in new reusable containers to replace the old disposable ones.

To participate in the program, students pay a one-time $4 fee. Students do not need to clean the containers once finished; they simply return their container to ’53 Commons, Novack Café or Collis Café, regardless of the location at which they picked it up. When the containers are returned, students receive a green carabiner, which can later be used to pick up a new container when they get take-out again.

Sabol said that in addition to the environmental benefit of reducing a significant waste stream, the program provides economic and social advantages as well. Economically, she said the program will save DDS around $20,000 a year, which can be used for improvements in other areas.

In terms of social benefits, Sabol said that taking the extra step of returning, rather than disposing, the container induces a positive behavioral change for students.

“When you take a plastic container and put it in a recycling bin, you are officially separated from the action that happens after it leaves campus,” Sabol said.

Plodzik noted that the $4 fee, in addition to covering the cost of a container, represents a way for students to “buy in” to the program, which he said would not work as well if the containers were free. He added that student feedback has been very positive, calling Green2Go a “wonderful success for our program.”

Sabol said she initially developed the idea for the program during her sophomore year. After doing research on similar programs at peer institutions, Sabol ran a pilot program with 12 other sophomores during summer 2016.

Plodzik said DDS then purchased 5,000 new containers this past spring to start the program, adding that each container is estimated to have 800 uses per lifespan.

Sabol said she appreciates DDS’s sustainability efforts, and she expressed gratitude for her partnership with DDS in implementing Green2Go.

“[DDS] this whole time has taken a huge interest and has been really supportive in this whole endeavor,” Sabol said.