Tag Archive | "food"

Get a good taste of MSU: Top 3 best cafeterias on campus

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Get a good taste of MSU: Top 3 best cafeterias on campus

#3. South Pointe at Case Hall and The Edge at Akers Hall

cafeteriaAmong the top three most popular cafeterias, South Pointe at Case Hall and The Edge at Akers Hall both have gained public praise in South and East Neighborhoods.

They offer a wide variety of meats on their menu, which is reportedly the reason for their popularity. Their large seating places and sofas also make Case and Akers Dining Halls suitable and comfortable places to enjoy a meal.

The cozy facilities and tasty food in Case Hall are praised by students. Because it’s widely known as the biggest cafeteria in South Neighborhood, Case Hall attracts students who live or have class near South.

“Case Dining Hall is pleasant and the food in there is delicious … and they also have sofas in the dining hall. My friend and I always meet there and do some homework,” said freshman Thomas Jones.

“The Case Dining Hall is the biggest and nearest cafeteria to me,” said engineering sophomore Ben Noble. “They always have fresh sushi, fries, chicken and pork. The sauce for the meat is so good that I want to go back to Case even though I have class so far away from my dorm.”

Akers Dining Hall has the same status as Case in East Neighborhood. Their meat menu is generally recognized as the best in the neighborhood. Student Ulises Martinez stated Akers has the most delicious daily meat at MSU including chicken, beef and BBQ.

#2. The Gallery at Snyder/Phillips Hall

The Gallery at Snyder/Philips Hall at MSU.

The Gallery at Snyder/Phillips Hall at MSU.

The Gallery at Snyder/Phillips Hall is equipped with six food sections: Bliss, Brimstone Grille, Ciao, Latitude, New Traditions and The Berg. The menu for the last three sections changes every day.

Snyder/Phillips Hall is located near Auditorium Road and Grand River Avenue, which attracts a larger group of customers. The large number of tables and the general cleanliness of the cafeteria also makes people feel more comfortable and increases their willingness to come over.

“Snyder has so many choices of food,” said business freshman Austin Lee. “My favorite thing about Snyder Hall is that they have a long table for salad and sushi … and also they have couple meat section. There are a lot of tables in Snyder for students and others to enjoy their meal or study.”

Austin is not the only one who is impressed by the huge size of The Gallery. When some students first come to this dining hall, they are shocked by the huge spaces.

Pre-med sophomore Eric Williams said, “When talking about Snyder, the first thing comes into my mind is big. And it’s also busy; there always are a lot of people, but it also means Snyder is so delicious.”

#1. Brody Square in Brody Neighborhood

Brody Neighborhood, as all students know, has the biggest cafeteria at MSU. A lot of freshmen are attracted to Brody Square because of its reputation as a scenic spot. It has almost every kind of food and the homemade MSU Dairy Store ice cream is undoubtedly the bright spot in Brody.

As the only cafeteria in Brody Neighborhood, Brody Square is the best choice for students who have classes nearby or who live in one of the four Brody residence halls. Students state that sometimes they come over to Brody from South Neighborhood and even East Neighborhood just to have a taste of the “best” cafeteria at MSU.

Cafeterias with something special

Wilson Hall

For students who demand late night food, there are four cafeterias that offer late night food until midnight. Besides Brody, Snyder/Phillips and Akers Dining Halls mentioned before, Wilson in South Neighborhood is also highly-acclaimed by students because of the plentiful late night menu. The fried and Buffalo chicken wings are the most popular option. When Wilson offers chicken wings, customers have to queue for ages to get served.cafeteria3

Hubbard and Holden Halls

As the dining halls with the shortest open times at MSU, Hubbard and Holden Halls have their own specialty meals for attracting students. The fried rice and dumplings in Holden Dining Hall is widely acclaimed by international students, while some special offers like noodles and daily soup in Hubbard Dining Hall are loved by them, too.

Food is the best friend of any human being. Plan your next MSU eating trip and greet everyday with love and food.  

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Students rank MSU Sparty’s locations

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Students rank MSU Sparty’s locations

Students only get one combo-exchange a day, so pardon us for being a little picky. We took a poll, and the votes are in and MSU students’ least favorite and most favorite Sparty’s locations on campus are…

Top 3 Least Favorite Sparty’s



#3. Communication Arts and Sciences Building

This location has earned its spot at #3 because students believe that it simply isn’t well stocked or an appropriate size considering the amount of traffic the Communication Arts and Sciences building receives. Coffee, bagels and other standard Sparty’s items are available at this location, but many complain that more should be readily available. As the nearest Sparty’s to students in the CAS College, the School of Packaging and those attending class in the Natural Resources building, customers do not appreciate its lack of variety and accessibility.


#2. Shaw Ramp (CATA Station)

Students describe the Shaw Ramp Sparty’s as a little bit… let’s say, unpredictable. Some claim to be unaware that it even exists at all! While its location sounds convenient, it may not seem as so when you miss the bus after waiting in line at the one-manned cash register to purchase that Sunbelt Bakery granola bar and apple juice.

Some students are also turned off by the general appearance of the CATA Station’s interior.

“The CATA (station) is already gross, so it makes the Sparty’s look gross,” said human biology sophomore Talia Winston. “It’s off-putting.”


#1. Wonders Hall

The smallest and (almost unanimously) least-loved Sparty’s on campus is Wonders Hall. As the only residence hall in South Neighborhood lacking its own cafeteria, this location fails to offer substantial options to residents and those who visit throughout the day. With little to offer aside from the ordinarily stocked items like cereal, pop-tarts, and sandwiches, students feel that it’s safe to say the selection does not make up for its size.

“They don’t really have anything,” said Wonders Hall resident Kelsey Bouteiller. “(It’s) pretty basic.”

Top 3 Most Favorite Sparty’s



#3. Riverwalk Market at Owen Hall

For students with classes at the Eli Broad College of Business, Riverwalk Market at Owen Hall is the closest Sparty’s nearby and the perfect choice when Starbucks just isn’t enough. This location provides a variety of combo-exchange possibilities to students with a menu that changes daily, offering dishes like fajitas and more.

“It’s big and you can come in and sit down. You can order Chinese food for your combo,” said human biology junior Chika Unaegbu. “It tastes better than the cafeteria.”

The Garden Wok Express station is a feature specific to this location. Students can find orange chicken and General Tso’s chicken at this station to substitute for an average combo-exchange item.


#2. Brody Hall

At #2, this Sparty’s has influenced many Michigan State University students to appreciate their combo-exchanges. In addition to its restaurant-style setup, this location is equipped to serve chicken wings, cheeseburgers, grilled cheese, french-fries and mozzarella sticks.

Second-year Sparty’s employee Marlori Allen called it “real food.” That’s what helps the Brody Hall Sparty’s stand out among the rest.


#1. Hubbard Hall

At the top of the list is Hubbard Hall’s Sparty’s Café. This location, similar to Brody Hall, has the ability to provide cheeseburgers, chicken wings and other hot food making it a place where many enjoy getting their combo-exchange. The most popular option is the famed chicken tenders. Its large seating area with comfortable booths and televisions also makes this Sparty’s a suitable spot for students to snack and study.

So, are you spending your combo-exchange in the right place?

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Hot and Healthy September: The perfect breakfast scramble

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Hot and Healthy September: The perfect breakfast scramble

It’s been proven that there is no better way to start your day than with a solid breakfast. It will help you pay attention better, give you more energy and help you kick the rest of your day in the butt. But there are so many breakfast options—the fried egg, the burrito, the omelet…what do you choose?

Chop your potatoes into even cubes

Most likely if you’ve made a scramble, you tried to make an omelet and you screwed up. At this point, I’ve screwed up enough times to know that I should just go straight for the scramble. It makes an extremely filling breakfast that will make you start your day feeling like you can do anything (except for maybe flipping an omelet).

Ingredients in a scramble are up to you (or up to what you have in your fridge). I usually just stick with the basics:

1 potato (leave the skin on)
2 Oz Jimmy Dean Pork Sausage
2 eggs
Shredded cheese
Frank’s Red Hot Original (optional)

Begin by cutting the potato into cubes. Then put the cubes in a frying pan with some olive oil. Add a little bit more than a quarter-sized drop of oil so that the potatoes will get nice and crispy. Stir those around, put them on a medium heat and cover with a lid.

Potatoes before they’re cooked and after. Add salt and pepper to season as well.

The lid will help heat the potatoes up faster. You will want to stir them every once in a while so that they don’t burn, but leave the lid on as much as possible. Once they turn from a clear color to a more opaque white, they are done and you can move on. But don’t be stingy with this—good potatoes can take about 10 minutes to cook. And there is nothing worse than crunchy potatoes in a scramble.

Next, add your sausage to the pan and cook it until it’s brown. Try to break it up into pieces that are similar to the sizes of your potatoes.

After that, add in the eggs and stir until they’re cooked. Turn off the heat and mix in some shredded cheese, and your scramble is complete.

This scramble is best served with Frank’s Red Hot on top and accompanied by a cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice. You can also add any sort of vegetable or meat to spice it up.

But no matter what, this breakfast will leave you ready to tackle whatever the day has in store and maybe even train you so some day, you can flip that omelet.

Bon appétit!

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A Clean Plate for Akers Dining Hall

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A Clean Plate for Akers Dining Hall

College cafeterias have gained a reputation for being, well… not that great.

Since 2009, Michigan State University has been renovating its cafeterias to defeat the negative stereotype associated with residence hall dining. As part of a proposal that Residential and Hospitality Services calls the Dining Master Plan, seven cafeterias on campus have undergone major renovations. The remodeling of Akers dining hall in East Neighborhood will mark completion of the Dining Master Plan following its opening in January 2015.

Anticipated appearance of Akers Dining Hall after construction. Photo via Eat at State

According to Infrastructure and Planning Facilities, the Dining Master Plan was designed to create “an integrated approach to neighborhood dining across campus, aligning dining capacities with projected changes in housing occupancy to meet demands and needs for any given part of campus”.

The planning process for the reconstruction of the Akers Dining Hall dates back to January of 2013 when Culinary Services hired the architect for the job.

“Akers Dining Hall closed May 2014, and major construction began,” says Matt McKune, the assistant director of Residential Dining for Culinary Services and project manager for the remodel. “Preliminary construction (infrastructure and fire suppression installation) began in March 2014”.

The redesigned cafeteria will have capacity said to seat 400 to 550 and will offer a modernized dining experience for Akers Hall residents and other Michigan State University staff and students.

“The dining hall is receiving a full renovation, complete with new seating and new food venues,” states McKune. “The food venues include a sandwich station, dessert station, pizza station, a stir-fry station, a tandoori oven, a smoker for smoked meats and vegetables, a grill and a salad station.”

Accounting sophomore Mae Kastros called Akers Hall her home during her freshman year. The renovation has her considering a trip back to her old stomping grounds to put the new cafeteria to the ultimate taste test.

“I think [the renovations] will definitely add an appeal to the cafeteria because last year, the sandwich station only had hamburgers and chicken sandwiches,” shares Kastros. “I would consider returning once the dining hall opens again, just to see how much it has changed”.

The Akers Dining Hall will join the six cafeterias on campus that have been remodeled as a part of the Dining Master Plan. Cafeterias that include Brody Square, Riverwalk Market at Owen Hall, Holden Dining Hall, South Pointe at Case Hall, The Vista at Shaw Hall and, most recently, Heritage Commons at Landon Hall.

Heritage Commons reopened its doors on August 23, 2014. Eat at State says it was the first major renovation at Landon Hall since it opened in 1947.

Landon Dining hall after renovation

Alex Myslinski, a resident at Landon Hall says that the changes made to the cafeteria have enhanced his living experience on campus.

“With a continually great menu and opulent atmosphere, the dining hall gives me a sense of pride to invite friends and family to share in it,” Myslinksi said.

With the reopening of the Akers Hall Dining facility just around the corner, students and other diners aren’t the only crowd that culinary services hopes to receive. Employees to equip the cafeteria are also in demand.

“Each time culinary services has opened a new dining hall, we have increased offerings to students.” McKune said. “This will be the case for the new Akers Dining Hall as well.”

The Akers Dining Hall is set to open to students in January 2015.

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Tengo Hambre: Global View Goes Out to Eat — February

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Tengo Hambre: Global View Goes Out to Eat — February

And, welcome to Round Three of Tengo Hambre! Has anyone seen that new show on MTV, Caged? I need some of those ring girls from ultimate fighting to walk around me (as I sit on my couch with my laptop writing this) holding up those numbers and grinning inanely. If my writing career doesn’t work out, maybe I could become one of them – it doesn’t look like it takes too many IQ points.

Anyways, thanks for coming back, is what I’m trying to say.

The somewhat sketchy outside view of Altu's. Don't let it discourage you.

This month I decided to check out an Ethiopian place, Altu’s, that’s just off campus, west down Michigan Avenue. Ethiopian is really popular in D.C., and I tried it for the first time when I was there. I loved it, so this month I turned to my trusty Yelp! to try and find somewhere to get it in the East Lansing area. Only two options came up – Altu’s, and weirdly, a place in Ann Arbor (which had 3.5 starts to Altu’s 4, just another way East Lansing owns Ann Arbor), which means there can’t be too many Ethiopian restaurants around if the second closest place is an hour away.

On one hand, I’m glad I can help introduce people to a new kind of cuisine, and one the other WTF Michigan?? Ethiopian is super popular in the bigger cities, and I like to think of Michigan, and especially the college areas, as pretty cultured and diverse. Let’s step it up guys. There’s more than Tex-Mex out there.

Ethiopian food involves a lot of stew-like dishes, usually spicy (but you can almost always order them mild if you prefer), that are served with a spongy, sourdough-ish bread called injera. The injera is used to scoop up the meat and veggies, as Ethiopian food is intended to be eaten with your hands instead of silverware.

Don’t be lame and let this scare you away. Eating with your hands is fun, trendy (see a recent story in the New York Times: http://nyti.ms/xoMADN) and a cool way to try out an element of a traditional culture that you might not be that familiar with. Take a date there, and it will give you something interesting to talk about, or teasingly mock him/her about if they suck at it. Hopefully they won’t since it’s pretty easy, but who knows, maybe your date is motor-skill deficient. And if you’re really set against the eating-with-your-hands thing, you can always ask for silverware – the restaurant is bound to have some for super American Americans like you.

Back to Altu’s. I wasn’t expecting it to measure up to the Ethiopian I’d had in D.C., being nowhere near as popular in Michigan, but it totally did. You guys, it was so good. Which actually makes more sense now that I’ve done a little more research on the place. The owner, Altu Tadesse, was born and raised in Ethiopia, and opened the restaurant when her husband accepted a job at Michigan State. She doesn’t just own the place, she’s in charge of the cooking too, so you can be sure your food will be authentic.

If you want to check out your options before heading over, the menu (with prices – dinner ranges from about $8 to $12, slightly more if you get a bigger plate to share) is available on the restaurant’s website, eatataltus.com. I got a combo with spicy chicken stew and garlic lentils and OMG LOL as my dad would say (he doesn’t understand popular acronyms). First off, all the meals come with salad, cabbage and of course injera bread, in addition to the main dishes. If you like, you can have rice instead of the bread, or do half-rice, half-bread (which I did just so I could report back to you guys on the best choice).

The salad, although it was just a small amount, a basically just lettuce and tomato with a vinagrette dressing, was super fresh and very good. I wished I had had twice as much. As for the cabbage, usually I’m not fan, but I actually like what was served with my meal. It was buttery and flavorful, but not super cabbage-y if that makes sense. Still, it wasn’t my favorite part of the meal. My friend who came with me loved it though, and in her words, “I’m not a cabbage girl.” Put that on a bumper sticker.

On to the main dishes. My chicken was delicious – pretty much exactly what I had expected from my prior experiences

Salt and...berbere?

with Ethiopian food. It was tender and spicy (but not like Tabasco spicy, more like a slow-growing, lasts-for-an-hour-after-the-meal kind of spicy) and went really well with the slightly sour injera bread. There’s a spice mixture used in a lot of Ethiopian cooking called berbere that was used on the chicken and you’ll probably run into if you try Ethiopian food anywhere – it’s a combination of chili powder, garlic, pepper, dried basil and other, less-known spices like rue, korarima and fenugreek. It’s so ubiquitous, that instead of salt and pepper shakers on the table, there was one shaker filled with salt, and one filled with berbere.

My lentils were good, but not as flavorful as the chicken. I expected a strong garlic taste, but it was much more subtle, and almost hard to detect when combined with the injera, which has its own flavor. If you’re going for a vegetarian dish, I would suggest going with the half-rice, half-bread option. The blander rice allows you to taste the veggie dishes better, but the definitely try the bread – it’s traditional and interesting and like I said, fun to eat with.

Salad, cabbage, injera bread, spicy lentils, whole white peas and potatoes, spicy ground peas with greens and chickpea sauce.

My friend went for the vegetarian combo, which is a really nice option because you can choose any four of the veggie options, which gives you a chance to try a variety of things. She went with the spicy lentils, the whole white peas and potatoes, the spicy ground peas with greens and the chickpea sauce. She said the spice lentils and spicy ground peas with greens kind of ran together since they both were flavored with the berbere, and that her favorite was the white peas with potatoes which she said were slightly sweeter, with an almost squash-like texture and taste. The chickpea sauce, she said, was a little bland, but went the best with the injera. I tried all of her dishes (and ate the leftovers today) and my favorite was the spicy ground peas with greens, which were spicy and flavorful, with a little more texture than the white peas or chickpeas.

On Saturday nights at Altu’s they have live music, which was cool, but a little annoying when it got loud enough to make our conversation difficult. Also, we were slightly confused because the band was definitely bluegrass-y, when we would have expected something African or at least not so…American. But they were good, and obviously local, so it’s kind of cool that Altu’s is giving local musicians a place to play every week. But still. Weird.


My conclusions about this place:

–       OMG LOL it’s good

–       Great place for vegetarians, lots of the hearty and diverse choices

–       Eating with your hands is highly underrated

–       I love berbere

–       Ethiopian food + bluegrass music = odd, but overall not unpleasant

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Tengo Hambre: Global View Goes Out to Eat — November

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Tengo Hambre: Global View Goes Out to Eat — November

Welcome to Round 1 of what I like to call, “Using The Big Green as an Excuse to Try Out New Restaurants.” Working title.

But let me explain. I spent a little over six months living in Washington, D.C. during last spring and summer. D.C. is a great city, and one of the many things it’s known for is its ethnic food. With the help of Yelp!, I experienced some pretty great meals – everywhere from food trucks to kinda fancy (but still within my intern budget) sit-down places and every cuisine from the ubiquitous Thai to Vietnamese, Indian, Middle Eastern and Ethiopian. I miss it. I want to go back. But I can’t afford the plane ticket.

Solution? I’m going to seek out the best ethnic places in East Lansing and Lansing, take one for the team, and go try them out. Hopefully they’ll be places you haven’t ever been to or didn’t even know existed, and you might be inspired to try one out. If not you can just be jealous of me.

Round 1 led me to Thai Village in Lansing, located at 400 S. Washington Square right near the capitol building.

I think that Lansing is underrated. I don’t know if it’s the distance, the number of options for food, the entertainment here in East Lansing, or the fact that there are not many students wandering around downtown — which the rest of us take that as some sign that we’re not allowed — but most people I know never bother to take the five-minute drive downtown.

I talked to a friend to the other day who said he had literally never been to Lansing, and he’s been here for four years. It’s kind of a shame because there’s a ton of cool stuff down there. The capitol is awesome, and you can take tours for free. There’s cool events like Oktoberfest, which just went on last month. There are coffee shops and places to study where you don’t know anybody who’s going to distract you. Most importantly: there’s good food.

The Starters

Yelp! recommendation in hand, I headed downtown with three friends on a Friday evening. If you’re worried about parking in Lansing, don’t be. There were plenty of metered spots near the restaurant, and meters in Lansing are free after 6 p.m. Thai Village looked slightly sketch from the outside, but I find that most good Thai places do. Also, have you ever noticed how all Thai restaurants have to have “Thai” in the name? I know of a Thai Inn, Thai Fortune, Thai 102, Thai Kitchen, there’s that new No Thai! Place in EL. C’mon, guys. Creativity.

We were one of only a few tables of people in there that night – not as good of a sign. Maybe they do a big takeout business? Anyways, the menu was pretty big, and we all decided on something different after a short dispute about who got to order the pad pak as I had forbidden anyone to order the same thing for the benefit of this story. By the way, I won.

I also ordered a Thai iced tea, which if you’ve never had one before, you should stop reading right now and go find some because they’re really, really good. It’s kind of like milk tea you would get at a bubble tea place but sweeter and with a stronger flavor. Basically, it’s a cold drink that consists of strong, dark tea, condensed milk and sugar, sometimes with some spices like anise mixed it. Thai Village’s Thai iced tea was definitely worthy of anything I ever had in D.C., which is to say it was great. Also, at $2, it was just about the same price as ordering a Coke and way, way better, and its creaminess is a great match for spicy Thai food.

Next up, miso soup, which came free with all of our entrees, a really nice plus. Normally, I don’t order miso soup because I’m not a fan. It’s kinda gross and watery and has that weird…miso-y flavor. I know, but still. But I had free soup in front of me, and I’m poor. There’s no way I was turning that away. And surprisingly, I really liked this variation. It was a thicker broth than I’ve seen before, and the flavor was more spicy than miso-y, and it was actually pretty hearty with tofu and mushrooms.

The Entrees

I had the pad pak for my entree, which consisted of broccoli, pea pods, mushrooms, carrots, baby corn, napa and bamboo shoots in a brown sauce. I added chicken, but if you can’t tell, I ordered it basically because it had the widest variety of vegetables and I’m usually too lazy to make anything but the occasional salad or side of broccoli for myself at home.

Sidebar: We had a serious debate about baby corn while deciding what to order. I mean, baby corn is weird, right? It looks like a tiny corncob, but you can eat the whole thing which is unnatural. It tastes good, but still, how the hell did they engineer that?

Anyway. It was really good. I ordered it hot, and it was definitely spicy but not over the top. The mix of vegetables was great and the sauce had great flavor. I’m trying to come up with another adjective to describe it other than great, but I can’t. Sorry. I’m obviously no Ruth Reichl. Basically, I’m telling you it was good so you should just go try it.

Everybody else was pretty happy with their meals as well. One of my friends had the drunken noodles (“I get it everywhere and I wasn’t disappointed,” she said. “The veggies were cooked perfectly but it could have used some more basil”), another had bell peppers and Thai holy basil with shrimp (“Could have used a lot more basil and some more shrimp, but otherwise good”) and the last had the sinn pak delight with tofu (“Delightful,” she said. Just kidding. “The tofu was cooked perfectly and the mushrooms were really good” was what she actually said).

So I guess maybe they’re really good chefs but have a basil shortage? On the plus side, the portions were huge, definitely big enough to take half home for another meal, which is basically the best part of any restaurant meal as any college student knows.

Prices weren’t bad either. Most of the entrees are between $8 and $9 for dinner and between $6 and $7 for lunch, and come with a choice of chicken, pork, tofu, beef, shrimp, scallop or squid.


My conclusions about this place:

–       Food was great (I don’t own a thesaurus)

–       They have a mysterious lack of basil

–       I am now craving Thai iced tea

–       I wish I still had the other half of my entrée left but I ate it at 3 a.m. the same night

–       I should probably have more vegetables in my diet

So there you have it! You should eat probably eat here if you like Thai food.

Lemme know if you have any suggestions for more places I should check out.

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Interview With Vegetarian, Leah Kelley

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Interview With Vegetarian, Leah Kelley

Leah Kelley

Leah Kelley smiles as she eats her vegetarian meal in Snyder-Phillips dining hall

TBG sat down with Environmental Studies and Agriscience freshman Leah Kelley to talk about the challenges and benefits of being a vegetarian.

Q: Why did you decide to become a vegetarian?
A: The initial reason was to lower my carbon footprint. Eating lower on the trophic level means that it takes less energy to produce the food that you’re making. If we were going to feed 1,000 people, you could feed them with grain or you could feed them with cow meat. It would take way more environmental detriment to feed them with beef because of the land that it takes and because of the greenhouse gases.

I do believe that the way we fill the animals that we serve as meals…chocking them full of different drugs to keep them from being sick. That can’t be beneficial to us and the hormones to make them grow faster…just the fact that cows are supposed to be grain-fed and they’re not.

Q: How long have you been a vegetarian?
A: For two years.

Q: Has being a vegetarian made any difference in the way you feel?
A: I think I generally feel healthier. I don’t know if that’s necessarily because I’m a vegetarian or because I eat a lot of vegetables.

Q: How hard is it to find something to eat at a restaurant?
A: It definitely depends on where I go. I feel like it tends to be that if I go to a restaurant that is ethnic, I can find something. But I think that in the American culture, meat is very prominent and so if I go to an American restaurant it’s usually pretty hard to find something to eat, which is unfortunate.

But it’s a good thing that I like ethnic food. I love Chipotle because I can just get the vegetarian burrito. And I also like the sandwiches at Potbelly’s. They have a vegetarian sandwich that’s got a lot of mushrooms on it and I’m a big mushroom fan.

I also am allergic to sesame seeds, which sometimes comes into factor from this because a lot of people [say], “Oh you’re vegetarian. You can have hummus and pita,” but tahini is sesame and that’s what’s in hummus. I would go to Woody’s because it usually is a good place for vegetarians, but I can’t have hummus and they put sesame on a lot of things.

Q: What challenges do you face when you eat in the cafeteria?
A: In Snyder- Phillips, in the Gallery, I can always find something. I try to make sure that I’m getting a complete protein. They always have black bean burgers, garden burgers and soy chicken at the grille. And there’s always salad, so I’m constantly able to get something if they don’t have another meal for it.

I lived in Hubbard Hall last semester and it was a little tougher there to get something that I wanted and that was vegetarian. I think you can always get something vegetarian but it’s just making sure you get the complete protein and that it’s something that you want to be eating.

I think I have more trouble with the combo exchange. I’m really busy a lot so I need to get combo exchange for a meal sometimes and the options that they have there for vegetarians are not very good. They have a vegetarian Mediterranean [wrap] that’s much less than delicious and the egg sandwiches are the same—really not good.

Q: Have you ever considered going vegan?
A: It was not my end goal when I started but I’m not opposed to the idea. We’ll see later in life if I’m in a position where I would be able to do that because it takes a lot of time and a lot of money to be vegan.

Q: How have you influenced others by going vegetarian?
A: My sister barely eats meat now. That could’ve been a choice she made on her own but she read a book about how humans weren’t designed to eat meat. She doesn’t eat red meat and she doesn’t make it. You eat meat and it stays in your system for about three days. Meat at that temperature for three days…that just doesn’t seem like a good thing.

Q: What’s your favorite vegetarian recipe?
A: My mom makes really great fajitas and we do home-make the salsa and it’s really delicious. I think my favorite part is the grilled vegetables. Grilled vegetables are amazing. The salsa is so full of flavor and the rice and black beans make a complete protein.

Q: Do you find it difficult to buy vegetarian items at the grocery store, like Boca Burgers, because they’re more expensive?
A: That is something that I would like to see change: the cost of vegetarian substitutes because I absolutely love Morning Star burgers. They’re delicious. It’s really frustrating how expensive they are. It’s nice that I can get them in the cafeteria because they are more expensive than some of the other things.

Mainly, I just go for the sale items and once you do get the food that you need for getting the substitute of protein, just ration. There is a Foods For Living [store] in East Lansing. It’s a lot like Whole Foods…it is more expensive but it’s a good place to go. They’ve got a lot of vegetarian items. I go in there and it’s like [an] overload of excitement for food.

Q: How do you fulfill your daily food requirements?
A: I’ve started taking B-12 vitamins as a supplement because that’s the one vitamin that vegetarians can’t get it [in] any of their substitutes, at least not in a viable form. I know that sometimes supplements aren’t the viable form also, but I feel like it’s better to take that than to not.

Q: What keeps you motivated on a daily basis to continue being a vegetarian?
A: This isn’t the only thing that keeps me motivated, but one of things is that I do have a lot of vegetarian friends. My roommate is vegetarian. I’m really involved in Greenpeace and whenever we have events…where we’re going to need food, I know that there’s going to be vegetarians there. It seems to be that lots of environmental activists are vegetarians, probably because of the same reasoning of the lowering your carbon imprint.

Q: Do you miss or crave any food that you can’t have now that you’re a vegetarian?
A: Sometimes I babysit the kids next door when I visit home. They would have…chicken nuggets in the shape of dinosaurs and I tried so hard to find…them and they don’t make them. I think that’s the one thing I miss.

Q: Did becoming a vegetarian require you to learn much more about nutrition?
A: I was figuring I’d just make sure I ate beans and rice because that makes a complete protein. My mom was really encouraging me to find more things, so I would buy tofu. She would not make anything with it because she doesn’t like tofu, so I would have to make something with the tofu. I generally eat healthy, so other than the protein factor, a lot of vegetarians just end up eating carbohydrates all of the time. I’ve tried to stay away from that and just eat vegetables. ..that’s what I eat most of the time.

Q: What advice would you offer people who want to become vegetarians but haven’t made the transition yet?
A: Do your research. Make sure that you’re reasons are correct and that you’re not just going off what someone told you in passing one day. Also, you can just try it out for a week and just see how you like it.

Click here to see how to make Leah’s favorite vegetarian recipe.

See the video below for Leah’s three things everyone should know before becoming a vegetarian.

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Cafeteria Safety

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Cafeteria Safety

While MSU educates nearly 45,000 students per year, the university’s cafeterias feed approximately 150 times as many mouths.

MSU feeds approximately six million people each year, nearly 25,000 people per day, said Associate Director of Residential Dining Bruce Haskell.

A student goes through the salad bar in Yakeley's cafeteria (photo credit: Emily Lawler).

Many students first view the massive cafeterias as an endless array of options, putting the home cooked dinner table to shame. Others notice the dangers of overeating or contamination often associated with feeding such large numbers of people.

“There were more choices than I expected there would be, so it was exciting eating in the dorms at first, but getting sick my freshman year made me aware of the less appealing side to dorm food,” said biosystems engineering sophomore Matt Crowder.

Crowder was one of 29 MSU students affected by the E. Coli outbreak in East Complex in fall 2008 from a commercial lettuce contamination.

“I would not wish E. coli on my worst enemy,” he said. “It was the worst sickness I’ve ever had.”

MSU division of residential and hospitality services collaborating with the Ingham County Health Department reacted immediately to the outbreak, pulling together all infected students to work on determining the source of the contamination.

“I spent five days in the hospital, and the health department visited me there to interview me about exactly what I ate for the last week,” Crowder said.

MSU’s response to the E. coli outbreak was crucial; the university immediately informed students through e-mail and provided updates on their website.

“We took every precaution,” Haskell said. “We even pulled turkey because many of the sick students said they had eaten turkey sandwiches with lettuce. We went through a lot of testing looking for a common thread.”

The Detroit-based vendor, Aunt Mid’s Produce Company, was eventually identified as the source of the outbreak.

“I first became aware of the E. coli outbreak on Sept. 15, and we did not reintroduce lettuce from a different company until Nov. 11,” Haskell said.

Although it was the first MSU residence hall contamination in 30 years, the contamination was covered nationally in the days following the outbreak.

“We took a big hit on that even though E. coli was happening all over the country, but the whole experience taught us a lot so when the Norovirus hit in April we were prepared,” Haskell said.

Norovirus, the second outbreak of the academic year, hit Shaw Hall on Apr. 1.  Approximately 30 students were hospitalized with Norovirus symptoms.

“Norovirus wasn’t foodborne, but to be safe we switched to full service of most every item to prevent cross contamination with students in Shaw and installed hand sanitizer dispensers,” Haskell said.  “We provided sick packets to residents so they wouldn’t have to leave their rooms; we were just taking care of our residents, really just doing our jobs.”

The campus cafeteria system had two bacteria breakouts in the 2008-2009 school year (photo credit: Emily Lawler).

As an effect of the two recent dorm-related illnesses on campus, students often relate bulk foods to dangers and recalls.  According to MSU food science professor Elliot Ryser, cafeteria food served in bulk is no more likely to be contaminated than any other food source.

“When feeding a large number of people it is easier to notice contamination,” Ryser says.  “If 400 people eat potato salad in a cafeteria, you can see the outbreak, but if 400 people buy potato salad at a grocery store and scatter and serve it to people in their homes, then it’s harder to tell where the contamination came from.”

While bulk food is not more susceptible to contamination, it is easier to detect when contaminations do occur, allowing for action to control the problem.  MSU has been known to react quickly when problems do occur.

“We live in a day in age where there are occasionally recalls and we follow very strict protocols on what to do if they occur,” said Joe Petroff, MSU residential and hospitality occupational health and safety officer.

Preventing outbreaks starts with the training and enforcement of food handling procedure.

“Before the food is put out it is as safe as any other source of food; it becomes dangerous when it sits out and is handled,” Ryser said.

MSU follows the Michigan Department of Agriculture’s food codes for food storage and handling and are inspected regularly. All MSU food service employees go through an extensive training when they are hired as well as an annual recertification, said Petroff, who is responsible for training residential employees.

“All employees go through a significant training to learn how to handle food and keep things clean and safe.  The staff is well-informed not to come to work if they show any sings at all of illness and are not penalized for that,” he said.

While food contamination is a main concern of students and staff, cafeteria food safety also encompasses the sustenance of the menus and nutritional value of the food offered in the MSU cafeterias is continually developing.

“Studies that I have done have shown students eat healthier in the residence halls than when living in off campus,” said Sharon Hoerr, a food science and human nutrition professor. “It is very possible to eat very healthfully in the residence halls; people just need to make some choices.”

While the cafeterias offer healthy options, the options force students to make difficult decisions regarding maintaining a healthy diet.

“Understanding what is healthy helped me have a balanced plate while my friends had entire plates of mac and cheese with Cheetos on the side,” said Nicole Goldman, a food science senior and former president of the Food Science Club. “My plate was always balanced, and the dorms make that easy with so many choices like the large salad bars with lots of fruits and veggies.”

The 13 MSU dinning halls aim to provide healthy options as well as the typical college cafeteria staples.

“People say that want to eat healthy but burgers and pizza still rule, so healthy is a hard thing to nail down; it is always different what people consider healthy,” Haskell said. “People acquaint healthy with fresh, so we have a lot of made to order food.”

The cafeterias follow the American Cancer Society’s “The New American Plate” as a nutritional tool and aim to buy local fresh food including entirely Michigan grown apples and are working towards Michigan meat products and more fresh than frozen vegetables.

“I like that you can see people making the food, and it’s not in a back room somewhere; everyone can see it, so that makes you feel more comfortable about what you’re eating,” Crowder said.

While there are healthy options, making the nutritious choice can seem daunting.  Maintaining a healthy diet while eating in cafeterias has less to do with what you put on your plate and more with how much of it, Hoerr said.  Controlling potions can be difficult in the cafeteria setting, but portion size is crucial for a healthy lifestyle.

“Portion size and eating rate are most important; anything in access causes serious problems,” she said.  “With unlimited service there is a risk of over eating since students feel they need to eat their money’s worth.”

Whether they frequented the soft-serve ice cream or stuck to the salad bar, most students agree the convenience of prepared meals anytime of the day is missed once they shift to off campus living.

“Living off campus I definitely miss the dorm food but less for its quality and more for its convenience,” Goldman said. “I liked that there was a wide variety of foods available to me at any time in the day because sometimes I’m just too tired or busy to cook.”

Tips for Staying Hot and Healthy While Eating Dorm Food from Food Science and Human Nutrition Professor Sharron Hoerr:

1) Slow it Down and enjoy it:  “Eating slowly helps, try to take at least 20 min to finish meal,” she said.

2) Good-bye Trays: While many cafeterias are going trayless, even if yours is not choose not to use one to help control your potions.  “Going trayless helps because can only eat what you can carry.”

3) Save the best for last: “If you eat your veggies and fruit first you are less likely to overeat.”

4) Slow down with the Cheese: “I notice that cheese is something that students love to use and using it as more of a flavoring agent rather than something you’re going to fill up on would be smart since it has so many calories.”

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