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SUNY Potsdam and SLU are first-rate for food, adding new healthy options

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POTSDAM — As of this year, SUNY Potsdam and St. Lawrence University, Canton, are winners in campus food in the state and nation, respectively, according to their students. Each school recently was honored for campus food with the inclusion of healthy, seasonal and diet-sensitive options for students who are pressed for time. Staff at both colleges are working this fall to make sure campus eating is enjoyed, not dreaded, by students.

The Daily Meal, a New York City food magazine that covers healthy trends in food service, ranked St. Lawrence University 49th out of the 75 best colleges in the nation for food for a third year in a row. Schools on the list were ranked according to several factors, including sustainability, accessibility and service, and nutrition education. Only six schools in the state were included.

In a newly opened cafe in the college’s new residence hall, staff are serving up simple items such as fresh fruit, bagels, and entree salads, along with special diet choices such as gluten-free muffins.

The college also has new coffee blends brewing in the new cafe, such as “Jamaican Me Crazy,” a blend chosen after the college surveyed students at a coffee tasting last year, according to Dining Services Manager Killy K. Bobela.

“Our mission is to provide high-quality food and service in a safe, friendly, comfortable environment,” said Cynthia Atkins, director of dining and conference services at SLU. “It is good to know that the students feel that we are doing that.”

She said the college incorporates local, seasonal foods into offerings at all of its eateries, most prominently at the Dana Dining Center, sourcing produce from North Country Grown Co-op, Massena, and Fobare’s Fruits, Rensselaer Falls, among others.

SUNY Potsdam was also tops in food, with its Potsdam Auxiliary and College Educational Services Inc. rated number one in the SUNY system for 2012-14 for dining service, according to a student opinion satisfaction survey.

This fall the college’s Cookies, Cream & Co., an eatery located in the college’s Barrington Student Union, added smoothies to the menu, which are intended to be a healthy breakfast option or snack for students and staff.

Students can buy smoothies on their meal plans with names such as “Strawberry Blast” and “Triple Berry Slim,” which feature locally sourced 100-percent fruit puree. Smoothie fans can add extras such as micro green powders, multivitamins, yogurt and granola to boost the nutritional and protein content in the smoothie of their choice.

So far smoothies have been a hit, according to PACES Corporate Executive Chef Amy L. Conger, who reported that 860 have sold in just the last few days.

Mrs. Conger, who describes herself as a scratch chef, introduced them in an effort to give more diet-conscious students a quick, healthy breakfast option as they rush to class.

Mrs. Conger, who joined the college in the spring, said PACES is aiming for consistency in food campuswide this year, striving to offer the same options at all eateries, such as salads made from scratch that are created at Dexter’s, an upscale eatery in the college’s Thatcher Hall.

She called the food service industry ever-changing, saying there are always creative new ways to satisfy new tastes, diets and sensitivities, while keeping old favorites alive.

“It’s thinking outside the box; it’s taking stuff that’s here now,” she said, hoping to change up menus on campus by next spring, something that the college has not done in five years.

She has already promised a few families that their children will gain their “freshman 15” despite having significant food allergies.

“I’m here to cook for the students. I’m not here to cook for me,” she said.

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