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Dining Services Devours the Competition

Dhall - John Brady
Photo by John Brady

This year, The Daily Meal food website conducted its second annual nationwide study examining the dining services of about 2,000 colleges and Grinnell College received high reviews from the organization, ranking 15 out of the 60 best colleges for food in the United States.

The Daily Meal used five main criteria to come up with this list: (1) how healthy, local and sustainable the food is, (2) overall service and accessibility, (3) nutritional education events and awareness, (4) the ‘X’ factor, a chracteristic unique to the school, and (5) student feedback.

This second annual list was made to demonstrate the improvements made by colleges and dining programs of average standing and to “see if the schools that wowed us last year were still maintaining culinary perfection,” as stated on The Daily Meal website.

Dick Williams, Director of Dining Services, explains one of the ways that our Dining Hall manages to continually evolve and present new menu items.

“The culinary staff gets together and they look over the entire menu and evaluate what we’re doing, what we’re putting together, what were some of the duds that people just didn’t like,” Williams said. “I think that’s unique, instead of just taking the same menu and moving that over to the next year. That’s something we do every year, every summer.”

Williams has worked at many different types of colleges throughout the Midwest. He says that the amount of time and care the dining staff puts into Grinnell food services is what sets Grinnell apart from other schools. He speculates that this may be what Grinnell’s ‘X’ factor is.

“I think this is probably the best campus I worked on,” Williams said. “I think here I have a lot more freedoms as a director to develop and experiment with food, to work with the staff and to offer different things.”

Dan Myers, the Eat/Dine editor of The Daily Meal and compiler of the 60-college list, confirmed Williams’ speculation in an email discussing the process of composing the list.

“The colleges that seem to migrate to the top of the list seem to be the ones that really pay attention to the needs of their students,” Myers said in his email.

Last year, out of the 52 winners, Grinnell was in the running at number 48. Williams believes that the new Culinary Intern Program bumped the College up the list. The program offers students from the Le Cordon Bleu North America schools of culinary arts a hands-on, practical experience at Grinnell’s dining services.

The Daily Meal website mentions this program as well as Grinnell’s “outstanding” grade in Food and Recycling and even highlights our Holiday Dessert Extravaganza.

“With the list, we hope to spread the word that college food can in fact be delicious (and reward those who are doing it right), and hopefully some colleges that are lagging behind in that department will see it and step up their game,” Myers wrote in his email.

Williams is proud that our college is amongst those who are “doing it right” when it comes to food.

“I was very pleased. Rankings are rankings. Some people put a lot of stock in them. Some don’t,” Williams said. “But I say, anytime you can get appreciation for what you do, take it. I think that’s what the ranking is, an appreciation for the program and the work we do every day.”

Williams attributes most of the school’s success to the hardworking dining staff.

“The dining staff that is so very, very dedicated to its students,” Williams added. “I think sometimes as a diner … it’s not that you don’t have appreciation, it’s that you don’t have the understanding of all it takes to put that food on the line every day, day after day.”

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