SUNY Purchase: Campus Food

The sun is up and the dining areas on campus have been open for a few hours by the time the average Purchase College student awakes on the weekend. They roll out of bed, grab a few of their friends, and set out across the Great Lawn in yesterday’s clothing. Many find themselves walking aimlessly around the Hub, hoping to find something more than the usual sandwich or oily slice of pizza. Others are unsatisfied as they peer into the pastries that are on display behind the glass at Starbucks.

“I want more variety here,” says Derek Garcia, sophomore film major, as he shakes his head. “I am not happy about Zona Mexicana being closed on the weekends. I’d like my burrito!” He throws his arms into the air. “I also like Terra Ve,” he says. “But, once again, I don’t like that it’s closed on the weekends.”  He shrugs his shoulders beneath his sweatshirt. “It’s close to where I live on campus and normally I don’t mind the walk to the Hub, but it does get annoying, especially when it rains or when it snows. I don’t have much of a choice.”

Nick Mennillo, director of dining services on campus, says that certain dining areas are closed on the weekends due to “lack of participation.”

“We put out so much product, all of those bins of food at Zona Mexicana, and we don’t get enough people to eat it on the weekends.” He smoothes his tie. “There are less students on the weekends, and we wind up throwing a lot of the food away,” he says. “It’s not good to waste food like that, but what are we going to do?” He puts his hands together and intertwines his fingers. “We can’t leave it sitting out there. It looks unappetizing.”

Mennillo points his chin to the Starbucks counter. His white mustache raises with his nose. “Plus, we added more food on campus. We have the hot and cold sandwiches here at Starbucks, Terra Ve reopened,” he says. “We can’t keep wasting food.”

The aroma of fresh brewed coffee enters the air as Mennillo watches a student walk by. She holds her steaming cup with both hands.

Mennillo explains that the dining hall has the same problem—food is being wasted. He says that he has been thinking that it shouldn’t be open during dinner, because there aren’t many students who show up. There isn’t much of a crowd for lunch, either.

“I want at least 700 people for lunch at the dining hall,” he says. “We get about 300 on a good day.”

The front door to Starbucks opens and the bell jingles. Mennillo nods as an employee enters, tying the strings to her green apron behind her back.

“It has to do with the dining hall’s location,” Mennillo says. “It would get more business if it were in the mall. It would be packed.” His eyes wander as he thinks. “Originally, the dining hall wasn’t supposed to be open on weekends. But the busiest meal is brunch at the dining hall.” He smiles. “We get about 800 students on Saturday and Sunday.”

Mennillo’s eyes shift towards the small line of students dressed in long sleeves in front of the Starbucks counter. Most of them are carrying notebooks. He says, “Terra Ve has always been closed on the weekends. I have it that way because surprisingly, its business is poor.” He focuses on a stack of papers on the table in front of him. “The amount of sales for the amount of effort is minimal. Since it has reopened after being closed for 18 months, it’s not getting the business that it used to,” he says. “I believe it’s because there are less vegetarians on campus.”

He grabs the page on top of his layers of papers and points a thick finger. “Only 797 meals were used at Terra Ve  last week,” he says.

Mennillo and his employees have been taking surveys on what students order. The surveys tell Mennillo when certain food items run out, and they also allow him to order them as soon as they are running low.

Jaime Silva, junior sculpture major, says he would rather eat at the Hub because he likes Zona Mexicana. “I eat at Zona regularly. It’s lame that they closed it on weekends,” he says as he removes his hood and sits up straight. “I eat there, or something in my room. I order Domino’s sometimes. I’d rather eat that than too much Hub or at the dining hall. I think the dining hall is grimy.” His glasses slide down his nose as he scrunches up his face. “They think they have variety? They don’t. It’s the same old food, same old routine. Get disgusting food, go to class.” He laughs. “It’s sort of like jail. They feed you the same slop every day.”

David Greenblatt, senior philosophy major, disagrees. “I’m fine with the choices they have here on campus,” he says. “It doesn’t bother me that Zona Mexicana and Terra Ve are closed on the weekends. They don’t phase me all too much.” He shrugs. “I’m content with the choices on campus.” He scratches his head. “I’ll eat anything.”

“Every person is different,” says Menillo. “The taste buds of the students are always changing. It’s hard to figure out what they want.” He nods his head. “I’m doing what I can to satisfy the campus.”

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