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Transforming the Dining Hall Experience
08.31.16 |
The freshman 15 is a common phrase referring to the average weight gain of a college freshman. The majority of new students on campus will either establish healthy or poor eating habits that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.

More than 400 Lebanon Valley College freshmen had the opportunity to undergo the Engage, Analyze, Transform (E.A.T.) Orientation Program during their freshmen orientation weekend. This new program, the only one of its kind in the nation, is the direct result of a research project by Kristin Robeson ’17, a member of Dr. Robert Valgenti’s E.A.T. Research Group. Dr. Valgenti is an associate professor of philosophy at LVC.

Robeson’s research began last spring when the class of 2019 participated in a survey to assess their eating habits, decision making, and knowledge of the dining hall and food. That survey research will be used as a baseline to compare the data collected from a survey completed by the fall class of 2020 after their orientation of the dining hall.

The orientation began with a power point to give the students an understanding of the relationship between the E.A.T. group and Metz Culinary Management, which runs the dining hall. As a freshman myself, I found this stage of the orientation most important. Kim Smith, general manager of Metz at LVC, thoroughly explained the goals of the collaboration, including allowing us to explore our food options, to increase our knowledge of the cafeteria, and to improve our dining experience overall.

John Hopewell, executive chef, explained how the food is prepared and informed us of the freshness and quality we should be getting. Meeting two the many staff of Metz made me feel more comfortable with the dining hall. Chef John, as he is known on campus, was very personable, wanting our feedback and ideas of new food that could potentially be available. He even said to bring in our moms’ recipes as the dining hall could prepare them. I am starting to see why he was named Chef of the Year, out of more than 400 chefs across the country, last year.

Stage two was the Taste Lab, which is also run by E.A.T. students. We all tried two different types of protein bars and then used our cell phones to open an online survey to give feedback regarding what we were tasting. Whichever bar is found more favorable, will be available in the dining hall. I, personally, was never a huge fan of granola or protein bars but still found this stage of orientation to be fun and interactive. The only issue I found with the Taste Lab was the nuts in the protein bars since some students are severely allergic and were unable to participate. I still believe this was very beneficial and made me feel included into what type of food will be available to me and my peers in the cafeteria.

The final stage of our orientation was a tour of the cafeteria. As a freshman coming from a small school with few options, the cafeteria can be slightly intimidating. As the staff member took us through, he explained each station and all the options they had to offer. This definitely helped me feel more comfortable and want to try the different varieties of food. As the tour concluded, we were able to make our own plates with suggestions of keeping it colorful and well balanced.

This orientation was extremely beneficial and very hands on. On behalf of the class of 2020, I thank Kristin for developing the program and allowing my class to be the first to experience the orientation. I also thank the Metz staff for wanting to educate us and by taking their time to make us feel more comfortable in the dining hall. Hopefully the results of my graduating class will allow the class of 2021 to have the same or an even greater experience with their dining hall orientation. 


By Delanie Cowan ’20  



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