Many Weber State University students commute to campus. If they don’t pack food before leaving, they must either find food or go without. WSU Dining Services provide options that allow students, faculty and staff to dine without leaving the campus to find food or beverages.
Dining Services is part of Sodexo, a worldwide contract services company. Dining Services is not subsidized by the university or Sodexo, however, but is an individual business.
Keith Murray, general manager of WSU Dining Services, said Sodexo is the largest contract services company in the world. It operates in more than 80 countries, and Murray said it has been involved in feeding the athletes at the Olympics for at least 40 years.
Tyson Skeen, the student promotions coordinator for Dining Services, said having that link to Sodexo gives WSU access to menus that smaller establishments don’t have. He said he attributes some of the unique recipes on campus to that tie to a larger company.
Murray said they serve foods people recognize, but that they are a little different. For example, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is available with Texas toast. Jessica Alford, Dining Services’ director of operations, said some sandwiches have stone-ground wheat bread.
“We do it up a little,” Alford said.
Every Monday in the Wildcat Room is Meatless Monday. Murray said a lot of people are hesitant because they’re not familiar with vegetarian menus and think they’ll just be eating lettuce and carrots. Skeen mentioned the vegetarian lasagna in particular as a menu item that stands out. Vegetarian options are also available at other locations on campus.
Alford said if students have concerns about Dining Services thawing frozen food and serving it, the staff is happy to take students on tours of the facilities and kitchen to show them the types of food in the storeroom, freezers and coolers.
“There is no such thing as mystery meat,” she said. “I think that’s a big misperception that people have, is that we buy en masse in non-branded types of foods, and that’s just not our reality. We’re using ingredients that they would use at home.”
Murray said the business runs coupons and specials throughout the year to help people save money. Alford said surveys are conducted regularly to determine which brands patrons want on campus. The Jamba Juice on campus is going into its second year of business; it was brought to WSU as a result of these surveys, which showed it was the No. 1 desired branded concept for smoothies.
Skeen said he believes the food is a better quality for the price when compared to other establishments off campus.
“I go to a local hamburger place and I get a good hamburger, and it costs me $6 or $7,” he said. “I can get one for $3 on campus for the same quality, if not better.”
While some of the food is prepackaged, much of it is made fresh on campus. Murray said Sodexo considers nutrition and offers healthy choices at the different food outlets on campus. Alford said some prepackaged foods have trans fats, but nothing Sodexo prepares does. She also said they prefer to use cooking methods such as baking, sauteing and stir-frying rather than deep-frying. None of Sodexo’s foods are prepared with MSG.
Murray said Sodexo is one of the leaders in the industry for using sustainable practices. Sodexo’s website contains a list of awards received for sustainability.
“We look at impact that our menu item selections have on sustainability, and we try to choose ingredients and foods that are more sustainable,” Murray said.
Dining Services plans to start a composting program in the fall that should help minimize the amount of food thrown away in the kitchen. Alford said the business also tries to source food locally when possible. Maps are available that show the farms where some of the local food comes from.
Skeen said promotions to help students and staff save money while dining on campus are available through a text-messaging service and Dining Services’ Facebook page.