New food for thought

Oct. 11, 2011, 3:02 a.m.
New food for thought
The Arrillaga Family Dining Commons caters to the needs of hungry Stanford students Monday. Its grand opening was Sept. 30. (LUIS AGUILAR/The Stanford Daily)


“Oh my God! Look at that!”

“Dude. This dining hall is legit.”

One after the other, students climbed hurriedly up the stairs. Looking all around, with eyes wide open, the hungry hordes made their way to the second floor of the Arrillaga Family Dining Commons.

The entire floor was buzzing with excitement, as people eagerly took their plates to the different food stations. As sunshine permeated through the large glass windows, students took their seats and chatted with friends inside or ventured to the outdoor seating on the terrace overlooking palm trees and the setting sun.

One thing is clear: Arrillaga Family Dining Commons is anything but the average college dining hall.

A collaborative effort between Stanford Dining, Stanford Athletics, the School of Medicine and the Culinary Institute of America, Arrillaga Dining Commons seeks to meet the various needs of students and change the way people view their meals.

“It’s truly a multi-purpose environment, with a place for cooking, exercising and learning,” said Shirley Everett, senior associate vice provost of residential and dining enterprises. “We really listened to the students, and we want this to be a place that students are proud of.”

Rebecca Amato ‘14 and a group of her friends were among the first to enter the Arrillaga Family Dining Commons.

“We had been anticipating the grand opening, so we waited outside beforehand because we wanted to beat the crowd,” Amato said.

“It was really cool walking into the first level,” she added. “There were welcoming couches and pillows, which you don’t normally see in a dining hall. It felt more like a resort.”

This enthusiasm is exactly what Everett had hoped for.

“It’s great to see the looks of students who are in awe of the dining hall,” she said. “All they can say is, ‘Wow,’ and when Stanford students are happy, I’m happy.”

The dining commons incorporates the educational aspect of food and health with its Performance Dining Initiative, part of Stanford Dining’s Eat Well program, and joins together technology, sustainability and nutritional themes. Unlike most other dining halls, Arrillaga Dining Commons seeks to educate students about the nutritional value of the food they eat.

The dining hall focuses on six different health and nutritional categories, each of which students will have the opportunity to learn about through different wellness apps on the iPads scattered across the dining hall.

According to Stanford Dining’s estimates, the roughly 4000 students on meal plans will consume in total about 200 million meals over their lifetimes.

“Our goal is to get students learning about how the healthy choices they make can influence their lifestyles,” said Stanford Dining Executive Director Eric Montell.

Anna Nti Asare ’14 said she believes healthier options are a definite advantage of the new dining commons.

“The pre-made salads are really good,” Nti Asare said, who is a vegetarian.

She also appreciates how the dining commons accommodates the needs of students.

“Class schedules don’t really fit nicely with the dining hall hours, so you end up having to buy food,” Nti Asare said. “But with Arrillaga, you can still eat in the dining hall.”

And that’s how it was planned.

“This is a result of a great partnership with students,” Montell said. “The extended hours make it so that students don’t have to compromise, skipping meals because of their classes or other commitments.”

Daniel Bui ’12 said that the Arrillaga Dining Commons is unlike any dining hall he has been to before.

“I regret that the Arrillaga dining hall wasn’t an option when I was a sophomore,” Bui said.

Other nontraditional features can be found in the kitchen and the basement.

“We have a kitchen that is separated with a wall of glass so students can see the preparation of their food,” Montell said. “If you go downstairs, there is a multipurpose room, and there will be cooking and exercise classes held there.”

In addition, the dining commons will be the new host of The Dish, the late-night dining option that used to be at Stern. It is expected to open Oct. 13.

With all of its new features and educational initiatives as food for thought, the Arrillaga Family Dining Commons has the potential to change the way people view dining at Stanford.

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this story, The Daily quoted Stanford Dining Executive Director Eric Montell saying that an average person consumes 200 million meals in their lifespan. It is in fact the number of meals Stanford Dining expects its roughly 4000 students on meal plans in total will consume over their lifetimes.

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