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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

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Campus Dining, One Semester Later

The Union Commons has been revamped with new places to eat. (Erika Karp / Statesman File Photo)

The grades are in after Lackmann Catering Services first full semester on campus and it goes like this: it won’t be mistaken for an Iron Chef, but it’s better than the predecessor.

Chartwells, Stony Brook’s previous campus food provider, had been plagued with complaints by the campus community on the quality, high prices and poor variety of food offered. The response from students – mainly those who were around for the previous dining service – is that there has been a stark improvement. Stony Brook, however, has steadily increased its total of undergraduate students in 11 out of the last 13 years, leading to long lines and packed dining halls. A campus that continues to swell with students is adding more stress to an already strained system.

“Students have responded well to the change over in dining services because of three important initiatives,” said Angela Agnello, director of Marketing and Communications for the Faculty Student Association.  According to Agnello, customer serice, sustainability and and a new program to aid students with their meal plan budgets are making a difference.

Students though seem to be more concerned with long waits and crowded dining areas.

“It’s the lines that are bad,” said Daniel Schwartz, 20, a sociology major at Stony Brook who does note an improvement in variety, prices and taste.   “The lines are horrific. I don’t know why. I think it’s because they just keep accepting more and more people on campus”

Schwartz acknowledges that besides the overcrowded dining areas during the middle of the day, he much rather prefers this particular dining service to the old one. In his opinion, those who gripe about the food now make good points, but they can’t deny it’s better than what they had before.

Among the many changes that Lackmann has instituted, some of the most positive according to Agnello are the Mashed Potato bowl returning to the Union Commons, a revamped menu at Wolfie’s, a new salad bar and hot entrées being added to Delancey Street and Eco Cravings — the 100 percent vegan food concept brought to Kelly Dining Center.

Lackmann, as you would expect, has made an effort to provide more healthy food alternatives to the pizza and burgers students commonly find themselves engulfing around lunch time. And they have made their move to be more environmentally friendly as well, which always earns points on a college campus.

“Lackmann promises to bring more traditional home cooked meals to Stony Brook University and offer less commercially prepared items,” Agnello said. “Campus Dining Services will soon launch a “flexitarian” eating initiative to promote more variety of meat-free options, encourage healthier eating and preserve the environment.”

Schwartz however thinks this is a tall order to pull off at Stony Brook.

“I think it’s odd when they show different, healthier food options because it’s really hard to eat healthy on a college campus,” Schwartz said. “The thing is that they always make the healthier foods more expensive.”

The idea of healthier foods sits well with Kevin Musonza, 21, a health science major who likes the idea of having more healthy options. Musonza said there needs to be more whole wheat options when it comes to bread, and a better variety of fresh fruits.

Musonza has first-hand experience with campus dining. In his freshman year at Stony Brook, Musonza worked the entire year at the Kelly Dining Center, serving Chartwells’ meals.

“It was mostly frozen stuff, food out of the freezer,” Musonza said of the food he used to have to serve as a dining hall employee. “There really wasn’t anything that fresh, just things you would have to pop inside the microwave.”

Musonza is among those who believe that the new Lackmann service is an improvement over last year’s provider.

“I think it’s an upgrade,” Musonza said. “I mean, it’s not the best but it’s a lot better than what it used to be, I’ll tell you that. It’s still a lot of money and the prices could definitely be cheaper. I’m still overpaying, but I’m getting more than I was before.”

This isn’t the first time Lackmann has dealt with Stony Brook. Lackmann had previously had a contract with Stony Brook that ended in 1982. Lackmann also has ties to local colleges in the area, having contracts with both Adelphi and Hofstra universities. Their relationships at both of those schools seem to be tenuous ones at best. Students at both schools have had clashes over the years, with the Lackmann services ranging from low quality food, to disputes over receipts being printed on request.

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