Dining services pushes to create a healthier campus

Kent State’s Dining Services hopes to bring student health to the forefront with a new business partnership aligning to the university’s Healthy Kent State initiatives — a contract that will last the next 10 years.

Vice President of Student Affairs Shay Little said finding a new partner is more than who’s serving chicken fingers and salads.

“We want a business partner that keeps our students and university roadmap in mind,” Little said.

Kent State’s Strategic Roadmap includes an outline of goals meant to enhance the integrity and efficiency of the current dining program.

Little said education is a main factor in the decision of which business will get the recommendation from the university.

“I think education (is most important). The business needs to collaborate in beyond just serving,” she said. “They should use their resource programs and teach health and wellness to the students.”

So far, Dining Services has incorporated Opt Healthy; vending machines located around campus with healthier options; the Mindful program, a symbol on food indicating a healthier option; Prentice cafe, a gluten-free dining location; and most recently, launching a search for a new, healthier dining vendor.

Tanya Falcone, coordinator of Kent State’s Center for Nutritional Outreach and a Sodexo employee, said that Kent State is doing well in emphasizing these initiatives and trying to find a solution to avoid unhealthy eating habits.

“They’re really trying to better the campus,” Falcone said.

Dining Services Director Richard Roldan said the candidates align with Warren’s initiatives for a healthier campus.

“The changes we are making are definitely driven to make campus the healthiest campus,” Roldan said.

Roldan works for Sodexo, the university’s current vendor, as well as one of the candidates for Dining Services.

Sodexo envisions replacing the Bean Scene coffee in the University Library with a Tree City Coffee shop and bringing “Lounge 12,”a grab-and-go area, to the College of Architecture and Environmental Design building. 

Aramark, another candidate for the contract, wants to incorporate a fully licensed Panera Bread, GRAZERS and Fresco Mexican Grill and Salsa Bar along with a new eatery — “Nourish’d” — that would be allergy-friendly.

Chartwells, the last candidate, plans to include adding name-brand restaurant chains like Panera Bread to Kent Market 2, as well as more promotion for Quaker Steak & Lube.

Additionally, Chartwells would eliminate commuter dining hours and create a new commuter meal plan. Chartwells also hopes to promote conservation techniques and run donation drives for charity to help educate the students. 

Roldan said that a new partnership should focus on a total full-body experience — mental health and physical health. He is not affiliated with the committee that makes the decision to choose the new vendor.

The search committee declined to comment on the healthiness of the vendors.

On March 2, a recommendation will be made by Warren to the university’s Board of Trustees. The board will the decide whether or not they will approve the partnership.

Hannah Wagner is the education, health and human services reporter, contact her at [email protected] Linda Stocum is the room and board reporter, contact her at [email protected]