The Pilot set out to write an article inquiring about the nutrition values of the food served by Dining Services, with an emphasis on discussing the feasibility of making the nutrition values available to customers to help them make the best choices for their meals.

Along with seeking that information, the Pilot posed the question as to whether there was data to establish if customers were receiving the most nutritious meals at an affordable price point. An interview was conducted with Lance Thornton, director of Dining Services and Trey McCartt, assistant director of Dining Services. They met with the Pilot for over an hour in a candid discussion of nutrition and affordability and acquiring the data that was requested. Both men were eager to gather the data, but explained that it would take some time to  access their databases and “translate” the data requested into suitable data for the Pilot to present the information largely in graphs for readers to see. This request was rather extensive and with the duties and responsibilities of their primary jobs, time constraints presented hurdles that could not be overcome to format the information in an accurate and effective presentation in time to go to press this issue.

Although the topic stated still remains to be answered, efforts are still being made, by all parties, to compile the data and present it in a cohesive, informative manner at another time. Meanwhile, what follows are excerpts from a Nov. 4 interview.

On caffeine:

PILOT: There have been rumors that there is caffeine being served on campus.

McCARTT: Not that I know of.

PILOT: Possibly in the Store?

THORNTON: Not that we know about. Because if we knew about it, we’d be like, “Excuse me, you can’t do that!”

PILOT: So is there a rule as to whether caffeine can be served on campus?

McCARTT: As far as I know, as far as Dining Services goes, we don’t serve any caffeine in the beverages, though it could possibly be argued that it’s in chocolate bars. But none of the beverages we serve have caffeine. We don’t add caffeine to anything. The tiramisu is always made with decaf. The coffee beans for the espresso machine in the Pub: decaffeinated. The coffee we serve anywhere: decaffeinated. We order through Amazon.com the Starbuck Via that’s decaffeinated that we serve out here. We have a limited number of soda choices compared to what you could possibly have because we get decaf. There is caffeine in the coffee pot in the kitchen, in a separate pot. [Some workers] buy their own; they’re not Christian Scientists. They have their own coffee; they don’t sell it to anybody.

THORNTON: They take up their own collection, go buy it themselves.

McCARTT: If that’s part of the basis of the rumor, then that part is true, if you’re interested in fair disclosure.

THORNTON: We don’t serve it. We don’t sell it.

McCARTT: And we’ve been told that the school continues to stand behind that as a line that’s drawn that we support, as Christian Scientists.

On vegetable choices:

PILOT: You mentioned a vegetable item is served at every single meal.

BOTH: Not breakfast.

PILOT: Where do you see that? Not having that at breakfast?

THORNTON: Well, we do serve a vegetarian option; a non-meat option. I don’t know. That’s a good question, and that would be one like, “Wow, interesting.” In 14 years, nobody has brought that up and asked for it. That’s certainly something we could do.

On nutrition:

PILOT: Do you feel as a whole, that Dining Services provides a good ratio of healthy food options to what some folks would consider not-so-healthy?

THORNTON: Well, it’s an easy answer for me. And that the answer is yes. Clearly, there are items that some individuals would look at and say, “That’s not a healthy item.” Me personally, I would tend to say, “Only things that have just way too much sugar would be the only things I would look at and go, ‘Nah.’” Even the stipulation with that – or the footnote at the bottom – should be, “In what degree?” You’re eating only desserts – yeah, that’s probably not the right balance. But in terms of the items that we put out for the main menu – breakfast, lunch and dinner – there’s a great balance of protein, vegetables, green and not green. There is a fair amount of starch in that we keep: rice, pasta, French fries. But we have just as much meat and vegetables out there, if not more. Then you throw the salad bar in there, which is so many vegetables and not nearly as much of the items that are Jello and sugar-based items. So, yes, I feel that it’s something that we look at with the menus and we keep that in mind.

PILOT: Are you in agreement that we should have nutritional values posted for things?

McCARTT: We’ve always, if they asked, provided that [nutritional values] information. We’re not hiding anything. We’re just not publicizing it, putting it out there and what not.

THORNTON: It’s not hidden, but it’s not in your face.

McCARTT: The other thing you asked is what our personal feelings are to different things. I would say, “It doesn’t really matter.” I’m not here to give you what I want. I’m trying to give you what you want: not just you, but the other 499 students. I don’t like raspberries. There’s a big joke back at Dining Services. We have a lot of raspberries here because we’re not giving you what I want to have: it’s what everyone else wants. You may not like raspberries, either. I love brussel sprouts, but I also know the majority of people don’t. We don’t have ‘em at all.

THORNTON: We do try to use our knowledge and experience. We use what we know from the restaurants we’ve been at, we use our visits to Mizzou and Michigan State and all the other colleges and universities that we have contacts with, we use all that information as well as just good wisdom to make sure we’ve got the right things out there.

McCARTT: But we do look at our responsibility to make sure to provide a variety of choices so they can eat how they feel best. You know, it is something to look at because you know where should that education come from? You would think it would start at home and whatnot. It’s a different style of mandate when you’re looking at say, the Upper School. It’s set up differently, and it is more rigidly enforced on eating habits. But then, as you come with the college students, they’re adults and they’re wanting to make those decisions at times.