Students returning to Stony Brook this week will find a Roth Cafe made entirely of new venues – including a Subway – and meal plans largely similar to last year’s. With the fall semester comes the notable addition of guest meal swipes among other changes, as campus dining transitions facility operators from Sodexo to CulinArt.
Sodexo was a frequent source of ire for students, some of whom complained about food quality, affordability and last fall’s botched introduction of the meal swipe system. In January, 18 months into a five-year contract, the Faculty Student Association (FSA) announced they were seeking proposals from other food vendors.
With CulinArt, there will be no change in price from last semester for dine-in swipes and existing retail items, FSA Director of Campus Dining Michael West said in an email Friday. Similar assurances were made by FSA Executive Director Nadeem Siddiqui in an email to the campus community. West confirmed that the functions of each dining hall will remain mostly the same.
The dine-in locations at West Side Dining and East Side Dining will continue to operate as buffet-style, meal swipe areas with access to unlimited food on site.
Roth Food Court has a completely new roster of vendors, including a Subway sandwich shop, a grill called Smash N’ Shake, a Fuze Pan Asian Express and an Italian cuisine-centric Tuscan Bistro. Roth and Tabler quad residents with unlimited meal plans will be able to use a meal swipe once per day at Roth Cafe, but all other students will have to use dining dollars.
Many of the changes made during the transition to CulinArt were the result of student feedback.
“When the new meal plan was proposed to student leaders last spring, they asked for guest meal swipes,” FSA Director of Marketing & Communications Angela Agnello wrote in an email Friday. “They also asked that the meal plans each have different amounts of dining dollars to allow for more dining flexibility,” she said. Thanks to this request, students on unlimited plans will now have six to 10 guest swipes per semester, which they can use on others at any of the dine-in locations.
The decision to bring Subway to campus was also the product of recent student input.
“Student surveys have shown Subway to be a brand students prefer,” West wrote in a separate email. “And students were already patronizing the two Subway locations off campus that are part of the Wolfie Wallet program.”
CulinArt will be working to provide healthier options, including “minimally-processed foods” and local produce, West said, with an emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables. The FSA is also looking to continue its weekly farmers’ markets, which were held over the summer as well as during the fall and spring semesters. Specialty Nights – designated nights with regional culinary themes – will carry over into the new year as well.
Executive Chef Dan Lopez, who arrived at Stony Brook in May after working as the senior executive chef at the United Nations for nearly four years, and registered dietician Amanda Reichardt will figure prominently into the new health and multicultural push.
“We instituted our Eat Well program which identifies healthy menu options with the EW logo,” Lopez said, adding that the newly-hired dietician will help keep healthy foods at the forefront of dining representatives’ minds. “[Reichardt] is tougher than I will ever be and holds our feet to the fire.”
In an introductory video released by the FSA-produced “Seawolves Food Show” in June, Lopez said the key to a successful dining experience is to capitalize on the diversity of the student body and recognize “different religions, backgrounds, dietary needs for everyone and help facilitate those needs.”
Allergen-sensitive entrees and sides will be available within dine-in areas at East Side and West Side Dining through a program entitled “Oasis,” while Kosher grab-and-go meals will continue to be available at retail locations and at The Emporium at East Side Dining. Kosher meals ordered with 48 hours advance notice will be made available at the dine-in locations of each of these halls.
Halal dishes will be offered at Halal NY in East Side Dining and at the grills at East and West Side Dining (for those dining in). Vegan and vegetarian options will continue to be sold at all dining locations with labels identifying their content. New additions to the SAC include a salad bar, barbecue and stir fry. Jasmine’s offerings appear to be unchanged.
All students in their first two semesters at Stony Brook – freshmen and transfer students – will have three plans to choose from: Standard, Plus and Premium. The Wolfie Standard Plan includes 50 dining dollars, six guest meal swipes and costs $2,522 per semester. The Wolfie Plus Plan includes 250 dining dollars and eight guest meal swipes for an additional $200 per semester. The Wolfie Premium Plan includes 500 dining dollars and 10 guest meal swipes for $400 per semester more than the standard plan. All three come with unlimited dine-in meal swipes.
Students in their third semester or later will have the option to choose between the three aforementioned plans, plans with a weekly dine-in swipe limit (10 or 12), plans with a set number of dine-in swipes per semester (160 or 32) or a plan with 1,575 dining dollars. These plans range in cost from $2,100 to $2,972. Only the Wolfie Standard, Plus and Premium plans include guest swipes.
Students living in cooking buildings will not be required to purchase meal plans and have the option of loading dining dollars to their ID cards with a $20 minimum.
“[Sodexo] continued to fall short of expectations,” Siddiqui wrote in a Jan. 9 email to students, “as demonstrated by quality assurance reports and customer satisfaction data.”
“I think the changes they say they will make look very promising,” sophomore biochemistry major Nicholas Puleio said. Puleio organized a Sodexo protest at West Side Dining last September. “Regardless of what changes they say they are making, it’s still unknown [if they will follow through].”
CulinArt is embracing the effective, popular aspects of Sodexo’s management, diverting and adding to the framework based on student input and their own internal goals. The dining facility operator’s contract with the university has a length of five years from the official start date of July 1.