By Sarah Tanner
Run by Bon Appetit, PUC’s Dining Commons features a wide array of sustainably sourced products. While most students are aware it serves 100 percent vegetarian meals, there remain a number of less well-known, but still exciting factors that truly make the PUC cafeteria shine. In a conversation with Allen Plouffe, the Dining Commons’ general manager, we learned a little more about those things that set PUC’s cafeteria apart from the rest.
In addition to showcasing an entirely vegetarian menu, the Dining Commons at PUC also features daily vegan and gluten-free options. In order to best serve students with dietary needs, restrictions, or simple health preferences, the cafeteria features a rotating variety of meals designed specifically with student wellness in mind. They also promise sustainably sourced and local products on each plate.
Plouffe explained Bon Appetit’s strategy, saying, “The company goal is to purchase at least 20 percent of all our food within 150 miles of our location.”
Utilizing local farmers and producers is vital to achieving this aim, and Plouffe notes, “We also directly purchase from several local companies. One of these is F.E.E.D. Sonoma right here locally, and NextGen Foods, which supplies all of our rice, which is grown locally and based out of West Sacramento. We also recently partnered with The Fruit Tree which is an Adventist company based in Alameda. They produce green smoothies that are sold in the Grind.”
Sustainability is also a major concern for the dining commons, and Bon Appetit is currently working toward providing all starch-based utensils, and is in the midst of becoming Food Recovery Certified, meaning the Dining Commons will be able to donate leftover foods instead of simply throwing them away. Currently, all straws and cups available in the cafeteria are biodegradable.
Another unique aspect of the PUC cafeteria is its dedication to providing several options for each meal. A daily taqueria cart offers classics including tacos, burritos, and haystacks. Likewise, “global” options feature a variety of cultural specialties, and the daily “exhibition” spotlights different student favorites each night of the week. Likewise, a full salad bar, two soups, as well as regular baked and sweet potatoes are offered every day. All meals are available as “to-go” options, allowing students on the run to still eat whole and healthy meals.
In addition to the daily specials, this year the Dining Commons is offering a Wednesday night “80 at 8” which offers favorites including Impossible burgers, street tacos, quesadillas, and southwest grilled cheese. This event sells up to 80 tickets for each meal, which can then be picked up at 8 p.m. outside the Grind. Another exciting plan available this year is the “Love From Home” project, which allows parents to call the cafeteria and order a special treat for their student.
This year has also introduced meal tier options, allowing students to choose how much they wish to spend each quarter. In addition to the typical meal plan, Plouffe mentioned students have the option to choose a flex plan.
“It includes dollars that can be used at Howell Mountain Deli inside the Market or used as additional dollars on campus,” he says. “We are also allowing up to $100 to be rolled over to the next quarter if unused, so students do not lose money anymore.”
One final initiative students should be aware of is the Food Service Advisory Committee. Last February, the FSAC was created to incorporate student questions and concerns as part of the Bon Appetit general mission. The committee is student-run in order to ensure students are satisfied with their meal options.
Plouffe explained, “This committee allows us to communicate why those decisions were made so, in the end, it makes sense. As a result, the taqueria is now open every day with rotating meal options. New meal plan payments, more events during the evening hours, and the cafeteria being open later during finals week are all a result of the FSAC.”
In all, PUC’s Dining Commons is much more than just a vegetarian cafeteria. From tiered meal plans to Wednesday night specials to a commitment to sustainable sources, the Dining Commons has much to offer. Students looking for health and wellness need look no further than the cafeteria’s daily options, and with a number of exciting new initiatives this year, the dining commons promises something for everyone.