The dull, off-white plates, bent silverware, slick floors and sticky tables are characteristic of Tech’s Dining Services. Whether they ate one bowl of cereal per semester or were first in line for omelets every morning, freshman students were required to purchase a meal plan. Nearly everyone on campus has memories of walking through the dining hall doors, swiping their BuzzCards and praying today’s food would edible.
Cashier Antoinete Sumlin at Brittain Dining Hall, one of the 350 people GT Dining employs, notes that her favorite part of her job is “meeting and greeting the students.”
“I love it when the former freshmen come back after they’ve grown up and matured; they’re like your own children,” Antionete said.
Antoinete and many of the other staff have a unique perspective on Tech students. They take on sort of the parental role that students lack in college, making sure that students are fed and following the rules.
Cora Sherrod, another Sodexo employee, has “done a little bit of everything” during her six years with Sodexo. She started out at Woodruff and since then has moved to Buzzby, the grab ’n go service behind Brittain, and in between has worked in the bakery, doing the dishes and the sandwich station—but her favorite is her current job.
“I love talking to the students,” Sherrod said.
Inside the dining halls, weird sights are everywhere as poor college students try to make the most of their meal plan.
“I once saw a pledge take two napkin dispensers, about twenty cups stacked up and a couple handfuls of various silverware,” said Reed Alexander, second-year ME major. “He managed to stuff it all into one backpack.”
During the recent snow days, students found creative ways to stretch their dining hall dollars. They could even be seen cheerfully stuffing Glad plasticware with hot food.
Despite the cafeteria-style meals found in all dining hall locations, Dining Services goes out of its way to make sure that healthy options are available for students. This surely stops some from gaining the dreaded “freshman 15.”
According to Rich Steele, Director of Auxiliary Services, a high percentage of the produce found in dining halls is locally grown. Fresh fruits are also available for students to take on the go.
As for the healthy options, Sodexo does a good job of labeling most of the food with nutrition values; knowing what students are eating is an important part of having a healthy campus. In the future, Dining Services hopes to continue its emphasis on a healthy lifestyle, including using the Mindful program and the myfitnesspal app.
Dining Services also hopes to expand further. Next year, Wing Zone will open across from WestSide Market. The restaurant will accept BuzzFunds and offer late-night delivery.
Later this semester, too, Highland Bakery will expand into the library, much like during last semester’s Finals Week.
Dining Services succeeds at its essential purpose, which is keeping students from starving and families from worrying. If students don’t have a car, a meal plan may be essential, especially given the lack of other options on campus.
According to Steele, the food is competitively priced with the Atlanta market and Tech’s peer institutions.
On rare occasions, especially holidays, students can in fact find some of their favorite dining hall cuisine.
“My absolute favorite day is the Valentine’s Day dinner—they try really hard and it’s really cute. I’m always known for inviting all my friends. I love the themed dinners and they try to make it special for students,” said Katie Cook, a fourth-year NRE major.
Meal plans also provide an economical option for busy students who either don’t know how or don’t have the time to cook. Jimmy Kepner, fourth-year ISyE and ECON major, appreciates the fact that the dining hall food, although not phenomenal, is better than what he can make on his own.
According to Steele, student feedback is welcome and recommendations and changes will be considered. There is a committee, the Dining Advisory Council, led by the Student Government Campus Services Committee, which “meets regularly to test new food ideas, to discus ideas and problems that need to be addressed, to review proposed meal plan pricing and to generally keep an open line of communication going with students about the services we provide.”
Despite its strange happenings and criticisms, Dining Services is a mainstay on Tech’s campus. It provides more than breakfast, lunch and dinner to thousands of Tech students—dining services helps create a sense of community between students.