It’s 12:15 pm on a Tuesday. You just got out of class and are heading to lunch. You walk up the steps of Huden and are greeted by the employee ready to scan your key card to let you in. Once you are inside, you take a minute to look around.
Your senses are flourishing.
You see people everywhere. Groups of friends, teams and faculty are laughing and enjoying a lunch together. Some people are waiting in line for a freshly prepared sandwich while others opt for the hot meals.
The very distinguishable “Huden” smell is looming, but is overpowered by the scent of the meals, from the create-your-own burgers bringing you back to the summer barbeques to the stir fry that is being prepared to order next to the salad bar.
You’re excited; this is what you expect out of a dining hall.
As soon as the campus community was notified last semester that Sodexo would replace Aramark as the new dining services provider at Castleton, the students were energized. Complaints about food were common in years past and incoming students would be forewarned by their peers.
But not any more.
The first meal Sodexo served after all of the students arrived back on campus was a hit. Students flocked the dining hall to get their first look at what was done and with the semester now well underway, students are still happy with their new food choices.
Meghan Hakey, a junior theater major, also talked about the extended hours at Huden.
“We usually have late rehearsals and now we are still able to get dinner!” she said.
The dining hall is now open until 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 7 p.m. on Fridays. This allows for athletes, students with late classes and those who prefer a later dinner to still get a meal without using points at Fireside or needing to venture off campus.
The meal plan options are similar to those that were offered last year, but Senior Corrie Keener said that she was extremely pleased with the commuter meal plan. She said she was hesitant to purchase one but is satisfied with the new food selections and low prices.
Sodexo also installed the “MyZone” kitchen to allow students with food allergies to grab food that is guaranteed to not be contaminated by anything else. The station features a fridge with different alternatives to dairy products, a special toaster and microwave to use with gluten free bread only, and a variety of other snacks.
And Huden is now offering a vegetarian section on a daily basis. This allows for vegetarian and vegan students to have meal options all the time.
“The vegetarian food is TEN times better. Last year I could only eat salad and cereal!” According to the website, students are offered “locally grown and produced produce and dairy, fresh fruits and salads, fresh baked pizza and pasta, new options for customizing meals, homemade soups, and more!” said senior Staci Jedlick.
For others, the deserts are a hit.
“They have real ice cream this year! It actually tastes awesome!” cheered Kenny Thar when asked what his favorite part about the dining hall was.
And perhaps the biggest change that students love is how Sodexo allows them to take food out of Huden. For $5, they receive a plastic to-go container to grab a meal for takeout. When finished, they can bring the container back and swap it with a clean one!
Senior Jacob Schepsman’s jaw dropped when he heard about the new meal transferability options.
Students with a meal plan are also now able to choose up to three meals per week to eat at Fireside with no extra cost.
General Manager Jeff Kurto explained that starting within the next few weeks, he will be designating a time where he will sit in the dining hall and allow for students to join him and share feedback. Student feedback is extremely important to Sodexo and the team encourages everyone to give input.
The Sodexo team will be holding their first big event in the dining hall on Oct. 2. Named after the District Manager, Phil Hardy, the Hardy Cup will be hosted in Huden and will showcase meals from seven district chefs from colleges in the region. Using only local products, these chefs will be creating meals to try and win your vote for your favorite meal.
“These chefs will try to knock your socks off. They will do what ever they can and create awesome displays for you to try,” District Chef Rob McFarlane said.
For more information, visit the dining website at www.castletonstatedining.com or contact Jeff Kurto, general manager.