Returning students who haven’t noticed a change in Huden Dining Hall this year soon will, or at least that’s what new Food Service Director Pete Merritt hopes. This July, Castleton hired Merritt to replace outgoing director Jeff Cairns, and he immediately began thinking of ways to improve the food quality and the overall food service at Huden Dining Hall.
Merritt worked for Aramark, Castleton’s food service provider, for 11 years prior to coming to Castleton, all spent at the University of Maine.
Upon coming to CSC, he brought with him many ideas, some of which he took from his old school and others from talking with CSC President David Wolk.
“He brought to Castleton a lot of innovative and exemplary ideas, and I am excited to help him bring those ideas to reality for the benefit of our students and our entire community,” Wolk said of Merritt.
For one thing, Merritt has made a conscious effort to improve is buying local foods. Castleton has already converted to buying all of its milk from Thomas Dairy, a family owned dairy located in Rutland.
This year’s Thanksgiving feast, Merritt hopes, will be almost completely made up of locally bought food. If all goes to plan, anything that can be bought from local farmers, from the turkeys to the apples in the pies, will be.
He believes that this is important to do because it supports the local communities, as well as provides students with the freshest quality.
Many students say they support the idea of buying local.
“I’m sure it would be better and of a more fresh quality,” junior John Quinn said.
Another goal Merritt has is to provide more nutritional options at every meal, and let the students know the nutritional value of what they’re eating.
By this coming week, Merritt plans to begin posting signs in Huden that will provide all of the nutritional information for each meal.
Merritt is also concentrating on reducing waste in Huden. In an effort to make CSC more “green,” he has been working with the “Green Team” on campus and has already stopped ordering products in foam packaging and has begun recycling anything that can be.
He also plans to compost biodegradable leftover foods in the future, which the school will then be able to reuse as fertilizer, he said.
Another plan for the future that Merritt is extremely excited about is starting a vegetable and herb garden.
His ideas and effort has impressed many people around campus.
“Pete is committed to delivering high quality food for students and guests, respecting the staff and students, and improving the overall food service operation,” Wolk said.
Merritt said he knows he cannot make every student happy on his own, so he is open to suggestions from students and faculty with any other ideas on how to improve Huden. He also wants to hear any questions, suggestions, or complaints about the food being served.
“It is important to me to be approachable. I want people to know who I am, and then come to me with anything,” Merritt said.
One student did so last week, suggesting for Huden to serve a Cuban soup that his mother makes. Merritt told the student to come back with the recipe and if it was possible he would be glad to serve it. He said he simply wants to satisfy students.
“Things are going to be changing all year, right up until the week of graduation,” he said.