• Juhi Dasrath

Take a bite out of this

By: Juhi A. Dasrath

AMHERST- The Princeton Review ranked the University of Massachusetts Amherst number one in the country for two consecutive years in a row. Serving about 30,000 students each academic year, the university offers diverse menu options serving students from across the globe but some say the food is not up to par.

So why then does the institute take the spot at the top?

“We chose UMass Amherst because it offers outstanding academics,” Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s editor-in-chief told Amherst Wire TV in an e-mail. “Our selections are primarily based on our surveys of administrators at several hundred four-year colleges. We also visit dozens of colleges each year and give considerable weight to opinions of our staff and our 24-member National College Counselor Advisory Board. Most importantly, we look at valuable feedback we get from each school’s customers—our surveys of students attending them.”

Franek also attributed the university’s success to its dedication its serving healthy and sustainable food sourcing 30% of its produce locally.

The university invested more than $4.5 million in local and sustainable food in the past fiscal year. More than half are sourced from New England farmers, cooperatives and vendors- including UMass students.

Some produce is so local, students plant, grown and harvest in permaculture gardens neighboring the dining halls.

“Overall I’ve always had a great experience with the dining halls. They have great staff members as well as the food is always good. They have great options for everyone,” said UMass senior Gabrielle Zarella.

While the university offers a variety of meals to campus members, students say it comes with a large price tag.

The University of Massachusetts’ Hampshire Dining Common located in Southwest Residential area,

“I think it’s a little expensive and I know that’s because there’s a lot that goes into the local produce and the quality of food,” said UMass senior Sam Anderson.

Director of Residential Dining Services Auxiliary Enterprise Garett DiStefano told Amherst Wire TV in an email that this type of food sourcing is an economical investment.

“Take chicken for example. You can strip it and make a fried rice, take the bones and use it for broth. With something like a cucumber, when we cut it a certain way, there’s enough cucumber for sushi and smoothies. It’s all about doing the most with what you have.”

UMass Dining is the largest college dining services operation in the country, serving 45,000 meals daily or 5.5 million meals per year, according to the UMass Dining website. Since 1999, overall participation the university’s meal plan has more than doubled from 8,300 participants to more than 19,200.

The self-operated program has caught Princeton Review’s eye for seven years running slowly making its way from number 10 in 2012, number 3 in 2013 and 2014, and number 2 in 2015 and 2016, and No. 1 last year.