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The main ingredient
Dining Services dishes up a side of hospitality with every meal
Students getting soup at the Union Cafe
Contrary to popular opinion, college students eat more than pizza and Ramen noodles. At Messiah, they also consume 31,960 pounds of bananas, 14,222 pounds of chicken, and 20,880 eggs yearly. The dining service operation at Messiah is significant— more than 2,800 students, 700 employees, and numerous campus guests — have the option to dine at the College’s three eateries each day. In addition, the College has a robust catering operation that serves o-campus receptions and dinners for crowds from 30 to 3,000.

The behind-the-scenes of the College’s dining services operation is impressive: walk-in coolers and freezers stocked with perishables; shelves of bulk-size containers of spices; and a fryer room where 1,100 meals per hour are prepared. The menu planning, ordering, delivery, preparation, and clean up is all managed by a staff of 30 full-time employees, 50 students, and Dining Services Director Mark Wirtz who refers to food service as a “practice makes perfect trade.” From the accounts of students and even presidential candidates, the dining services staff at Messiah has excelled at their trade!

The dining services staff was “energized,” according to Wirtz, to show off their culinary skills when Messiah hosted The Compassion Forum in April, an event that brought presidential hopefuls Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, campaign staffs, religious leaders, and more than 100 journalists to campus. Clinton’s team especially liked the chocolate cake, and Obama special ordered a grilled chicken breast with broccoli. So, besides the honor of preparing meals for two presidential candidates, it was a rather typical, upscale catering event for the dining services team, said Wirtz. However, it’s not presidential candidates that usually rate Messiah’s food, but the opinions of 2,800 students that really drive menu selections and the day-to-day dining experience.

Today’s restaurant patrons, including Messiah students, are seeking an interactive culinary experience, according to Wirtz, who has been a chef for more than 30 years. Responding to this trend, Messiah has developed made-to-order stations featuring fresh ingredients and the opportunity for the consumer to personalize their meal by selecting their favorites from among the ingredients. In the Falcon Express, a smaller, snack-shop type of restaurant located on the first floor of the Eisenhower Campus Center, the made-to-order stations have been well received by students and employees alike and have featured omelets, stir-frys, and Panini sandwiches. The Falcon Express was updated this summer with more create-your-own options.“The food service industry in general is trying to accommodate customers’ desire to participate in a more active style of dining,” says Wirtz. Plans are underway for the main student dining hall, Lottie Nelson, to undergo renovations to designate permanent space for made-to-order stations.

For fresh ingredients, dining service looks no further than across the lawn to the Grantham Community Garden, a student-initiated, quarter-acre garden located near the Jordan Science Center on campus. Dining services “owns” 2/11 of the garden and receives a variety of fresh vegetables
from it throughout the summer. In addition to reaping the garden’s harvest, dining services will also contribute to providing nutrient-rich soil for the garden’s next growing season. Starting this fall, students will gather suitable scraps from the kitchen, deliver them to a compost pile, and use the resulting soil to grow next year’s garden.

Dining services doesn’t just get local produce from the on-campus garden. Their primary vendors, Feesers out of Harrisburg and Four Seasons Produce, incorporate local fruits and vegetables from area farms that meet specific guidelines related to wholesomeness.“I am absolutely committed to great food, great service, and safe and clean restaurants,” Wirtz says. A part of that is not settling for food that is anything less than wholesome, he adds. Food is delivered to Messiah College six times a week, and the College maintains seven days’ worth of inventory on hand. The sophistication of the menu-selection and ordering processes prevents the College from having an abundance of leftover, uneaten food each day. However, when there are leftovers, especially at times just before a long student break, the College donates the food to a mission or food bank in the Harrisburg area.

In addition to prepping, cooking, frying, and baking for three eateries, the College also has a robust catering program. From boxed lunches for an afternoon business meeting to an elegant evening meal complete with crème brulee, Messiah caters to approximately 75,000 on-campus guests
each year. It is not uncommon for the catering bulletin board in the kitchen to contain dozens of catering set-ups and menu selections for multiple events each day. WStudent prepares meal at Union Cafehile Messiah’s catering services are limited to on-campus events, you can see a sampling of some of their work at www.messiah.edu/ offices/dining/catering/pictures.html.

We welcome you to visit Messiah’s eateries to leisurely enjoy a cup of coffee before or after attending a Cultural Series performance, concert, or film on campus; to grab a pizza to go for your family for dinner; or to simply stop by for an ice cream sandwich after a day on the Yellow Breeches. Each of Messiah’s three campus restaurants is open to walk-ins from the public (find them on the campus map ).

Lottie Nelson Dining Room, located on the second floor of the Eisenhower Campus Center, is a standard cafeteria with a broad selection of all-you-can-eat options. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, students can make a salad, sandwich, or waffle; they can choose from pasta, pizza, soup, and any number of Lottie favorites like macaroni and cheese or pecan crusted chicken breasts. A table brims over with sweet desserts and a variety of fresh fruit. Door prices per person range from $5.60 for the continental breakfast to $11.15 for dinner.

The Falcon Express, located on the first floor of the Eisenhower Campus Center, is more like a snack shop designed to provide quick, grab-and-go options. There is a seating area for Falcon guests who wish to study, meet, or conduct business while they eat. The Falcon is typically open from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and offers breakfast and lunch standards like bagels, pizza, soup, burgers and fries, salad, and coffee.

The Union Café is located in the Larsen Student Union and is open only during the academic year. The café features a variety of sandwiches, soups, pastries, coffees and smoothies, pizza, and salads, and is open from 7:30 a.m. to midnight. The seating is cozy and comfortable, and the booths are equipped with outlets so guests can plug in their laptops.


 

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