Kennesaw State University among nation’s “Best College Dining Halls”

Dining Hall exterior

 

BestColleges.com gives The Commons kudos for sustainability, recycling and using fresh, locally grown products

KENNESAW, Ga. (June 27, 2013) — Recognizing a shift in college dining operations from “standard cafeteria-like settings, with lunch lines and trays full of nondescript and boring foods,” BestColleges.com has ranked Kennesaw State University’s The Commons Student Dining Hall among the nation’s best.

“Debunking the common perceptions of cafeterias in general, the colleges on this list are being recognized for going the extra mile to provide nutrient-rich and delicious food to all their students regardless of their diet,” states the website of BestColleges.com, an online resource for prospective college students. “The lunch lady in the kitchen stirring the mystery soup has been replaced at many colleges by an executive chef and well-trained kitchen staff, whose job each day is to create culinary masterpieces sure to delight any college student’s stomach.”

Such is the case at Kennesaw State’s The Commons, where nothing is cooked in advance. The Commons makes all soups from scratch, smokes its own meats and fish, makes its own pickles, and makes all breads in house, including sliced white and wheat breads.

“Just as students look at academic offerings when choosing a college or university, they are also looking at dining hall operations, in a way they didn’t before,” said Gary Coltek, director of Culinary and Hospitality Services. “Students care about where their food comes from and what happens to it once it gets here.”

In its ranking, BestColleges.com noted Kennesaw State grows its own hydroponic lettuce, herbs and shiitake mushrooms, and 20 percent of the produce used in The Commons is grown on campus. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options are available, including favorites like pizza, pasta and desserts.

Kennesaw State was the only public institution in Georgia to make the BestCollege.com rankings, but this isn’t The Commons or Culinary and Hospitality’s first – or only – national recognition.

Just last month, Kennesaw State won two national awards from the National Restaurant Association – the “Innovator of the Year” and Operator Innovations Award for Sustainability. Citing its “comprehensive, closed-loop waste management program” and “Farm to Campus to Farm” initiative, this was the first time an educational institution was selected to receive the prestigious Innovator of the Year award.

Beginning in 2011, Kennesaw State was ranked among the top 25 schools for best food by Newsweek. That nod was followed by a string of accolades beginning last summer when Kennesaw State joined Stanford and the University of Massachusetts in receiving top honors from the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) for sustainability outreach and education. In September, The Daily Meal, an online publication dedicated to culinary trends and news, ranked Culinary and Hospitality Services 10thin its “52 Best Colleges for Food in America.” Just two months ago, Kennesaw State received a prestigious NACUFS Loyal E. Horton Award for its dining hall, The Commons.

The university’s 5,000-guests-per-day dining hall operation maintains its healthy focus with a farm-to-campus-to-farm approach. Kennesaw State harvests honey from 42 bee colonies and grows heirloom varieties of vegetables and herbs on a 2-acre organic farm. The food served in The Commons is either eaten or composted and then taken to one of the University’s three farms to be used as fertilizer. Plans include programs to produce aged cheese and organic dairy, olive orchards and oil press on the farm, as well as adding chickens this fall to produce cage-free eggs.

By Jennifer Hafer

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Kennesaw State University is the third-largest university in Georgia, offering 80 graduate and undergraduate degrees, including doctorates in education, business and nursing, and a new Ph.D. in international conflict management. A member of the University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State is a comprehensive, residential institution with a growing population of 24,600 students from more than 130 countries.