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Souza: CSU dining halls should include more diverse foods

Souza%3A+CSU+dining+halls+should+include+more+diverse+foods
Collegian | Sophia Sirokman

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Several of the Colorado State University dining halls feature international sections on their daily menus. The food served consists of cultural tastings from several different areas around the globe. Frequent meals include carnitas bowls, poke and rice, chicken tikka masala and spicy chicken with kimchi and furikake. 

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Statewide, CSU’s dining halls rank fairly well at fourth best in Colorado with a B+ overall grade on Niche, below the University of Colorado Boulder in first, Colorado Christian University in second and Regis University in third. Nationwide, CSU is ranked 310 out of 1,434 schools in Niche’s website database. 

These statistics imply that, when stacked up against competitors, CSU’s dining halls hold their own. Does that mean, however, that the food is also more diverse than its competitors? Do CSU’s world fare options really span worldwide?

“Considerable thought and planning are put into offering a variety of foods from around the globe regularly and across all dining facilities,” said Joe Hostetler, the procurement manager of CSU’s residential dining services. “This is done through the varying restaurant concepts found in each dining center as well as through our dining special events held throughout the year.”

“With this being said, if dining services have enough of a budget to represent a handful of cultures, they should have enough of a budget to represent them all. Because frankly, they’re right: Food is critical in educating and connecting us with cultures similar to and different from our own.”

These “restaurant concepts” Hostetler referred to are sections like The Foundry’s Comida and Passport, Durrell Center’s Bento Sushi or Braiden Hall’s The Filling Section.

While I do believe that CSU has an adequate number of dining locations to access cultural foods, more effort can still be made to represent the “worldwide” portion of dining hall offerings.

“Middle Eastern and North African cuisine are not seen as much,” said Reham Abdunabi, a junior at CSU and senator of the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center for the Associated Students of CSU. “A lot of people I know would like to see more of that.”

I couldn’t agree more. As a CSU first-year entirely dependent upon my meal plan, in my experience with the cultural food selections — which I eat around four to five times a week even though I check the menus daily — I have noticed that the menus do not feature Middle Eastern or African cuisines as frequently as Asian, European or Hispanic cuisines. 

Specifically, I have eaten a lot of gyros, pounds of poke and more than my weight in naan. I cannot recall a time when I have seen a Middle Eastern cuisine besides falafel and hummus. And I can not recall a time when I have seen African cuisine at all. 

I completely acknowledge that some meals have gone past my sight; my memory is very likely flawed, and these observations are not a definitive, black-and-white line of what is and what isn’t served. I am only asserting that not all cuisines are represented in the menus equally.

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I think it would be interesting and within the capabilities of the CSU dining services to add dishes utilizing ingredients that already exist in the current menus. For example, kofta is a meatball-adjacent dish most commonly made with lamb or ground beef and a mixture of spices. Variations of the dish are frequently incorporated in Middle Eastern, North African, Balkan, South and Central Asian cuisines. 

The dining halls already utilize ground beef in a lot of their meals, so turning it into a kebab and adding some additional herbs and Middle Eastern spices is completely within the realm of possibility. The meal would not reach perfect authenticity, but all cultures deserve the same frequency of representation in dining hall food.

Abdunabi also said there can be more diversity in the global food section in general, specifically including more vegetarian options. 

Daily menus are determined by a variety of factors, most relevantly allergies and dietary preferences such as vegetarianism or veganism, Hostetler said. If there isn’t a lack of motivation to accommodate and represent students — as residential dining services have a mission to expand education through food — then is there a financial limit to equal menu representation?

Hostetler said menus and food products are sourced under a yearly budget. The budget is determined by a variety of factors, including the previous years’ expenditures and how product costs have changed, student preferences and feedback, food waste and the number of CSU residents with a meal plan that year.

With this being said, if dining services have enough of a budget to represent a handful of cultures, they should have enough of a budget to represent them all. Because frankly, they’re right: Food is critical in educating and connecting us with cultures alike and different from our own. 

Although CSU may have a better menu and better food quality than other colleges in the nation, we should always be striving toward representing all cultures, bite for bite. 

Reach Emma Souza at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @_emmasouza.

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