The Future of The D-Hall

By Rivvy Eisenberg '16

 

Since the arrival of Aramark last fall, the Bennington College Dining Hall has gone 

through some radical changes. Along with the refurbished and streamlined facility, a 

switch in food services has brought some uncertainty into our dining experience. While 

many of the changes have been welcomed—better coffee, local bread, and increased 

variety at the salad bar among them—food service staff and students alike are looking for 

it to improve into the future. The BFP met with the Dining Hall chef, Mike Crane, who 

intends to develop additional stations that aim at providing “basic” and “key” ingredients; 

giving students the freedom to adjust meals to their own needs. Despite skepticism of 

the corporation’s ability to conform to Bennington eating habits, they seem receptive to 

dietary concerns and are in the first stages of establishing a gluten-free bar. Having only 

serviced Bennington College for a single semester, it may simply be a matter of time 

before Aramark can adapt its pre-existing programs to fully accommodate everyone’s 

needs. As Mike explains, “It’s always an evolving process,” and while “we could 

probably come up with a long list of limitations of why we can’t do something, at the 

same time, we can always make something work.” 

 

Perpetually fine-tuning the system, the dining staff has been experimenting with new 

ways to provide students with the fresh and tasty food they want. Bennington undergrads 

may have appreciated the expanded array of seasonings, as well as the occasional “local 

profile station,” which showcases subs, wraps, salads, and desserts crafted with local 

ingredients. Though time intensive, Mike plans to continue connecting with new local 

suppliers, and says that expanding upon the already locally sourced food is a long-term priority.

Already, the dairy products and bread are made in Vermont; and Mike is 

in conversation with the administration about obtaining equipment for preparing and 

stockpiling local harvests into the off-seasons. Eventually, with proper processing and 

storage, produce from the Purple Carrot Farm may be more readily integrated into the 

meals.

 

Reacting to requests by students to deal with the inconsistent options for those with 

dietary restriction, two new stations are being created. The gluten-free bar will provide 

“unseasoned,” gluten-free products, some of which will be packaged to ensure that there 

is no contamination with flour. The other station will contain plain pastas, so that students 

can create their own meals. Although these stations will curb some of the concerns, they 

do not fully address the issue. While utilizing locally sourced food is a worthy goal, milk 

and bread remain inaccessible to students who have lactose or gluten intolerance 

regardless of their origins. Before Aramark can call its initiatives at Bennington a 

success, it must first deal with these issues critical to people’s daily health. Among 

these concerns is inconsistent labeling of ingredients in food, which Mike plans to have 

clarified by the end of this term, including making the ingredients of all foods made 

available upon request. 

 

It’s encouraging that Aramark is voicing sensitivity to student concern and plans on 

embracing the changes outlined above. What remains to be seen is how successfully these 

plans are implemented.

 

If napkin notes aren't enough, stop by and chat with Mike in person. Find him in his 

office Tuesday through Saturday, or you can email him at mcrane@bennington.edu.