Wellness at Wilkes: Dining Services works together with Aramark

Wilkes University Dining Services has transformed the average school dining experience for students. They strive to provide students with excellent service as well as encouraging cooks to create new and healthy recipes for all to enjoy.

Wilkes University is partnered with Aramark, an American food servicing company that provides not only the food for the Wilkes campus but also information and resources to help the campus thrive nutritionally.

There are multiple places that offer food throughout the day on campus. Henry’s Dining Hall and Rifkin Cafe are both located in the Student Center. Rifkin cafe on the first floor houses Grille Works and Which Wich.

In the Stark Learning Center you will find Greens to Go and P.O.D. Market. There, you can enjoy made to order salads and grab food on the go.

There are two healthy initiatives that dining services carries out to help promote students to make healthier choices.

Healthy for Life Initiative began in 2015 and focuses on providing healthy menus as well as wellness programs for many locations.

“It features healthy food choices, nutrition education, and wellness programs that support healthier lifestyles,” said Rich Coburn, food services director.

This initiative also allows colleges and universities to access to their information online through CampusDish. This resource allows employees that are on campus everyday to communicate with Aramark to create the best meals for students.

“This program has already reached over 2.5 million college and university students,” said Coburn.

Feed your Potential 365 is another initiative that dining services introduced and it began in January 2017.

“The goal is simple: we want to help people discover what healthy food can do to feed their potential and accomplish their best,” said Coburn.

Food is an important part of any person’s life and it is important to nourish our bodies so that we can be the best versions of ourselves.

Feed your Potential 365 is run by Aramark but mainly carried out by the team here on Wilkes University’s campus.

It is a collaboration effort to make sure that the initiative is run properly, “from our Senior Marketing Manager, to our Regional Nutritionist, along with our team here at Wilkes, we all work together in order to provide better nutrition and wellness for everyone here at Wilkes,” said Coburn.

The regional nutritionist, Michelle Richard, comes to campus twice per semester to work with students and employees. She also communicates with students and employees throughout the year through email and phone to make sure that dietary needs are met.

Aramark offers a variety of options when it comes to the meals that they provide students on campus.

There is an Executive Chef and a Sous Chef that work together to create meals in advance so that they can make sure there is a variety of choices.

The meals are planned out in a four-week rotation. The team uses the summer to plan out these menus but they do incorporate seasonal items throughout the school year.

With a few exceptions students can expect protein, vegetables, starches, salads, soups and desserts each day.

“We also have certain days where the Executive Chef will feature certain menu items, i.e. Wednesdays are specialty burger days for lunch and upscale dinner at night, Taco Tuesdays and days throughout the semester where other items are featured on the Taste Cart,” said Coburn.

For those students with specific nutritional or dietary needs the Executive Chef, Matt Moss is available five to six days a week and is be able to assist with those needs.

There are also options at every meal time for those students that are vegan, vegetarian or gluten free.

They are emphasizing a more plant-forward approach but some recipes will still contain meat.

“We recently expanded our gluten free options in the Student Center with ongoing plans to increase the menu daily. Typically, we can accommodate any request for additional items as well, based on availability,” said Coburn.

Aramark also works towards reducing environmental impact here on Wilkes University’s campus. Green thread is an initiative that was started to reduce waste as well as supporting the natural environment.

“We accomplish our goal through responsible sourcing from authorized suppliers and waste minimization by aligning with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s food waste hierarchy. Our priority is to reduce waste at the source through our Food Management Process with supports our back of the house operations,” said Coburn.

Continuing with responsible sourcing, Aramark purchases some products locally as well. They use National Bakery in Scranton, Pa., Rockland Bakery in Nanuet, NY, Kegels Produce in Lancaster, Pa., City Baking in Long Island City, NY and Blue Ribbon in Exeter, Pa.

Sourcing from local companies has helped to reduced costs and environmental waste. The staff here at Wilkes also recycles all cardboard that they receive.

Aramark and Wilkes work together to create healthy food options that promote a healthier lifestyle. “As a part of the Healthy for Life commitment with the American Heart Association, Aramark chefs are finding creative ways to include fruits, vegetables and whole grains into the menus,” said Coburn.