You know the Caf is serving cauliflower tacos when there is a line stretching from the doors of Nicholson Commons to the Cooper Music Center. The Caf boasts a wide variety of food daily and provides some information about sourcing, food waste and how the Caf caters to special diets on PLNUdining.com.
David McHugh has served the PLNU Caf for about five years as the executive chef and district chef. He has worked at San Diego State University and as a culinary professor at Grossmont College.
McHugh said that the Caf staff is “constantly looking for the newest and best thing out there, we learn from the students what the next best things are,” and that an increase in pure protein options is the most requested change.
Students are able to submit requests and complaints through a form on the PLNU Dining website.
“We’re moving away from fatty and fried foods and landing on pure proteins,” McHugh said.
He ensures that his colleagues and himself are working hard to meet the requests of students and provide the best experience possible.
Sodexo, the company that sources PLNU’s food, is not only working toward options requested by the students, but they are also conscious about where their food comes from. Approximately 30 to 40 percent of Sodexo’s produce comes from local sources, but the challenge is that many local places simply don’t have enough food to feed all the students at PLNU. The university cafeteria serves thousands of students on campus, which takes a tremendous amount of food. McHugh said he spends $2200 a day just on produce.
“We are finding more and more foods that are organic,” said McHugh as he pointed to the salad bar next to him, “the arugula, the spinach, the cucumbers, [are] all organic. You don’t have a chance in hell if you don’t bring in quality food.”
Although the PLNU Dining website claims that it participates in a ‘Food Recovery Network’ where the leftover food is donated to The San Diego Rescue Mission, McHugh said that they have only donated leftover food one time. “We don’t have much that isn’t repurposed or reutilized in general, usually we use remaining food as new ingredients,” McHugh said.
According to McHugh, the goal is to run out of food every day and replenish it every day.
“Everyone wants to feel good and no one wants to see things go to waste but at the same time, we want to stay true. We set our compass to it being the student’s food,” said McHugh.
As enjoyable as the burgers and quesadillas are at the grill section of the Caf, there has been a rise in alternative diets among college students. According to a Forbes article entitled “The Growing Acceptance Of Veganism,” between 2014 and 2017 there was a 600 percent increase in vegans in America. It is imperative that students with alternate diets like veganism, pescetarianism and those with severe allergies are provided with adequate nutrition.
My Zone and Simple Servings are sections of the Caf dedicated for food free of gluten and nuts for students with allergies. In addition, there is a station that specializes in providing vegan meals.
First-year global business major Ethan Hoff said, “as a pescatarian, I enjoy the Caf. I’ve never had a problem with not having food because there is a pescatarian option, but personally I wouldn’t ever eat any of the seafood, it just doesn’t look appetizing to me.”
He suggests looking at all the options and trying to make a meal of your own. He said he often chooses food from various stations to make a new meal of his own. Hoff hopes that the Caf will start integrating more inclusive options for all stations.
“I think we should have more gluten-free options for each meal served. For example, the chocolate soft serve is dairy free, why not make other popular options as inclusive?”
KT Sansing, a third-year international studies student who has been vegan for 4 years says she would like to see more fresh vegetables and more good vegan protein options.
“It feels like the vegan food is always just rice and cooked vegetables,” Sansing said.
While Sansing’s go-to Caf options are the carrots and celery with hummus, she advises other vegans who eat at the Caf to “go for the fresh veggies and look for the simple proteins.”
As of this semester, the Caf has brought back smoothies on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Many students are asking what else will be coming to the Caf.
McHugh said, “we are moving forward with new pizza toppings coming out, more cheeses, artichokes and olives.”
As the year goes on, we can expect to see additional options, but, until then, stop by the Caf and grab some chili tofu, carrots, and hummus, dairy-free soft-serve, or even make your own meal!
For dietary and nutritional concerns, you can reach out to the PLNU Dietitian Carrie Gunn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written By: Avery Bosco