Bye bye burritos, hello health

By Mary Reines

Students at the University of Massachusetts noticed some big changes at the newly refurbished Hampshire Dining Commons, which now has a circular layout, no longer serves soft drinks and only serves burritos on occasion, as opposed to every day.

Delia Barth/ Daily Collegian

Although the abolition of soda was a big move, students are reacting more negatively toward the removal of the burrito station.

“It is a big deal,” said Hampshire Dining Commons Manager Joe Flueckiger. “The soda is nothing compared to the burritos.”

Sophomore Kari Peer was disappointed that she could no longer use meal swipes at the Baby Berk Trucks like she did during the dining hall’s renovation. She also missed the burritos.

“It’s just kind of a let down, and they don’t even have burritos,” she said. “I wish they had burritos every day.”

According to Garett Distefano, Director of Residential Dining Services, the burrito station was upgraded to a Latin station, which serves authentic enchiladas, braised chicken, tacos and nachos with hand-cut tortillas. He emphasized the importance of expanding the station to include a greater variety of foods and explained that merely serving burritos at the Latin station would be inaccurate.

“To say it’s Latin fare, it’s insulting to some people,” said Distefano.

Flueckiger added that burritos were actually a Tex-Mex dish.

Despite the culture conflict, Distefano promised to serve burritos one way or another.

“We will do it, I promise we will do it,” he said.

But burrito frequency is still tentative. Flueckiger said that dining hall officials are looking at a couple different options for a burrito schedule.
One idea is to serve them between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays, like the burger bar. Another idea is to serve them one night a week, such as Wednesdays or Fridays, as a main dish at the Latin station.

“I can’t promise anything at the moment… part of it is that we’re still settling in to the new space and we want to make sure that the program is working the way we intended,” he said. “But we do understand that students want burritos and we would like to do that for them.”

According to Flueckiger, burritos were served at the Latin station on Saturday to an appreciative crowd.

“The kids were loving them,” he said. “It wasn’t exactly the way that we did them before, but we still had a full-sized tortilla and students were able to select all the options that they wanted.”

Burritos are served regularly at Blue Wall on weekends from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and at the Blue Wall Marketplace from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m during the week. They are also served at the Pita Pit in Hampden after 5 p.m., and occasionally at all of the dining halls.

As for soda, the sugary drink has been replaced by flavored teas, fresh-squeezed fruit juices and fruit-infused waters. Every day new smoothies are blended, poured and distributed in small plastic cups.

Senior Zac Broughton, Student Government Association president, spoke highly of the new drinks.

“I love the fruit juice,” he said. “I wish it came in a bigger glass because those ones are a little small, but it’s been really nice.”

Other students appreciate the restriction. Senior Sam Ingemie said that it was a good way to raise awareness of health issues.

“I thought it was a really political move,” he said. “But I like it because it in a way forces people to think about their consumption of soda … and it’s a good way to start that conversation.”

Another student, freshman Rebekah Sargent, didn’t mind a dining hall without soft drinks.

“I don’t really care because I don’t really drink it that much, and if you want a soft drink you can go somewhere else,” she said. “But I think it’s actually a pretty good idea to get people from drinking so much sugar.”

The soda restriction was implemented in an effort to make Hampshire the healthiest dining hall in America. The changes were also made based on students’ reactions.

According to Distefano, surveys revealed that 92 percent of participating students wanted to eat healthier, 82-85 percent wanted to have more local ingredients and 85 percent wanted to have more whole grains.

“We’re really trying to walk the walk here,” Flueckiger said of Hampshire’s changes.

Distefano and Flueckiger are enthusiastic about serving healthier options, but only if they taste good.

“It has to be craveable,” said Distefano. He recalled a moment when his relationship with tofu changed after eating a dish of seared, thinly sliced tofu with a little salt, pepper and lemon.

“I like it, I like it a lot [now],” he said.

Flueckiger also explained his goal of introducing more natural foods, which don’t include preservatives or artificial dyes. He said that they want to incorporate “more real food, good and hearty.”

He also said that UMass Dining officials are focusing more on local food than organic food in an effort to reduce the carbon footprint and support the local community.

“The Valley is a small place, but we do a lot of farming here,” he said.

On Tuesday there will be an official ribbon-cutting ceremony at 6:30 p.m. to celebrate the dining hall’s reopening.


Mary Reines can be reached at [email protected]