Who would have dreamed in 1965, when the University of Colorado moved its satellite campus to Austin Bluffs Parkway, that one day the Colorado Springs school would boast an award-winning food service system, dishing up around 4,000 meals daily?
During the past half century, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs has grown from a small school serving commuters to a medium-size university with residential accommodations.
To feed the growing population, there are now four dining facilities: Café 65, Clyde's Gastro Pub, The Lodge and Roaring Fork. There are also four coffee shops on campus named Sanatorium Grounds, a nod to the property's history as a sanatorium that addressed rest, recovery and rejuvenation.
In January, Mark Hayes, director of dining food services, and Russell Saunkeah, executive chef and associate director of culinary services, led a tour of the newly opened Roaring Fork dining area in the Alpine Village housing complex.
The dining area and kitchen are state of the art, with ample room for serving the campus' ever-increasing needs.
"The original dining hall was designed for a much smaller residential student population, and UCCS is growing," Hayes said. "That is why we built a new dining hall, Roaring Fork, and are renovating the original one, The Lodge. We will have over 1,500 residential students next year between Summit Village and Alpine Village."
Any parent who has visited campuses with a teen knows that food plays an important role in college selection. And there are specific factors for some, such as how food allergy needs are handled, as well as the nutritional focus and type of meal plans offered.
David Porter, an expert on social architecture, maintains a "well-designed dining hall helps students connect with their school and develop bonds with other students. That can boost GPA by keeping them on campus and motivated to succeed. And it builds school pride and loyalty, both of which increase a student's odds of graduation."
UCCS is on trend with its dining facilities.
"Academics come first," Hayes said. "Next, I believe that the dining program is one important factor in choosing a university, along with other campus support services like housing, recreation, health services, student activities and counseling services."
UCCS strives to address the nutritional concerns of potential students. There are dietitians on staff, and the culinary department uses a comprehensive food service software program called CBORD. Full nutrition and allergen information labels are generated with the program.
"It also includes NetNutrition that provides real-time menu information, nutrition, and allergen and food preference filters," Hayes said.
All of the residential dining hall menus identify allergens. Roaring Fork's Simple & Fresh station is not only allergen-free but also stocks prepared gluten-free items. Now that Roaring Fork is in full operation, The Lodge will be renovated over the summer. It too will have a Simple & Fresh allergen-free station.
Café 65, a marketplace-style spot in the University Center, has allergen information online. In Clyde's, the menu lists allergen information and more can be found online.
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Hayes and his team use produce grown in the campus's greenhouse.
"The greenhouse grows several thousands (4,000 to 5,000) of pounds of produce per year that are used in various dining locations," he said.
Dining services also implemented a "Reusable To-Go" program using the latest technology. At some of the stations at Café 65, diners can opt to buy Ozzi containers instead of disposable clamshell-style containers - which earns diners 50 cents off their next food purchase. The container then is wiped out and returned to the Ozzi machine for a reward token.
Here's a little-known secret about UCCS dining facilities: They are open to the public.
"Residential dining locations have two fee structures - one for campus members with an ID and one for external customers," Hayes said.
Campus members pay $5.95 for breakfast, $6.75 for lunch and $7.95 for dinner. The public pays $9.95 for breakfast, $11.95 for lunch and $13.95 for dinner. The Lodge and Roaring Fork are all-you-care-to eat facilities. Visit uccs.edu/diningservices for hours and menu options.