Taylor Dining Hall renovations
One of the most popular questions incoming students have about a prospective college is often not about academics or the community; they want to know what the food is like.
A college’s dining hall serves as an important fixture for any campus. Yes, students have meals there, but it also serves as a location to gather a group of friends, study for an upcoming test or even find yourself in an impromptu meeting with a professor. Assumption’s Taylor Dining Hall is no different.
This past summer, Taylor Dining Hall received a overhaul through a series of renovations to both the seating area and the food stations.
“The main change to the dining hall was to remove the beverage wall to open up the area,” Assumption College’s Director of Business Services, Todd Derderian, said. Because walls have been blown out, entire serving stations have been added and the tables have been replaced and rearranged.
In addition to the new seating arrangement, another notable change to the dining hall is the introduction of “Simple Servings,” a new station that serves food free of the most common allergens: peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, wheat, soy, milk products and eggs.
Simple Servings provides a safe space outside of the allergy-free “pantry” to get fresh, made-to-order food without 90 percent of allergens. The program assures that there is no cross-contamination during the cooking process by preparing the food in a separate kitchen. Kathie Hanwell, general manager of Sodexo Campus Dining Services at Asumption, notes that the Simple Servings offerings are a big draw for families looking for safe dining options for their children.
“Many families seek out colleges and universities with a Simple Servings program to ensure a safe food program for their child with food allergen preferences,” she said.
By offering this new Simple Servings station, Taylor is providing peace of mind to students, families, faculty and staff that struggle with food allergies.
The most common misconception about the Simple Servings station is that it is exclusively for students with allergies. However, this is not the case – anyone can enjoy the station. Simple Servings is ideal for both students with allergies and health-conscious students who like to have full awareness of what they’re eating. “75 percent of Simple Servings items also meet our health-driven Mindful criteria, so our students don’t need to worry about compromising health and flavor,” said Hanwell. According to Sodexo, the menu’s Mindful items caters to those customers who are considering ingredients and portion size in order to control weight, blood sugar and other health issues.
While the addition of Simple Servings is a innovative and necessary change, the new seating arrangement has proven more controversial among students. Previously, Taylor had rows of long booths, with small round tables mixed in. In order to open up the dining area, however, the booths have now been replaced by almost exclusively round tables and smaller booths along the edge of the seating area.
Some students, like Caroline Bercierm, a senior, think the new tables are a positive change. “I like it,” she said, “It is more personal and keeps the first-years from sitting in huge groups and not being able to hear each other.” As first-years are the primary patrons of Taylor because of their unlimited meal plans, the adjusted seating arrangement could provide a way to foster closer bonds between new friends.
However, some people are much more ambivalent about the new arrangement, citing how difficult it is to navigate the sea of round tables are. Shannon Campbell, a senior, explains, “These small tables and lack of booths big enough to fit a group of friends discourages friendship.” Some students believe the tables are actually making it more difficult to form new connections between larger groups of friends.
Though the student opinion on the seating arrangement is divided, everyone agrees that the renovated Taylor is an overall improvement. For many, the renovations have made Taylor a much more accessible space for students looking to enjoy a meal, a conversation or even a cup of coffee while doing their homework.
“I think Taylor looks great.” Kara O’Connell, a junior, said. “The whole space is much more open and inviting for students.”
“I actually want to eat at Taylor again and feel like it looks like an actual college dining hall,” said Jenna Stringfellow, a senior.