where did all the food go?

Food For Thought Behind the Scenes of Muhlenberg Dining Services

 By Alex Goldman & Grace Nyberg


There are various draws to Muhlenberg College: the student-teacher ratio, liberal arts education,
community oriented campus. But a critical aspect for many is the incredible quality of food
served at the Wood Dining Commons. The dining hall is a beloved location on campus to refuel
and relax as well as connect with others. Those who experienced the Wood Dining Commons
before the COVID-19 shut down in 2020 might have noticed some changes in the way the dining
hall operates; on some days there are fewer options available and/or repetition of similar meals.
The dining hall staff is working furiously hard to overcome new difficulties resulting from the
pandemic. We went to get a better look at the process that makes Muhlenberg’s quality food
possible, specifically considering what has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

Part 1: Setting the Scene

We began our quest talking to John Pasquarello, the General Manager for Muhlenberg Dining Services. He kindly welcomed us behind the scenes, giving us a tour of the kitchen, as well as the storage for all of their food on campus. This was the first time either of us had been behind the scenes, and we got to see exactly how food went from being delivered to being on our plates. We saw how much of the food was stored on campus at any given time, with multiple refrigerators and freezers, as well as an entire room for dry goods.

John told us that dining services usually get deliveries from their main distribution partner,
SYSCO. They buy in bulk from these companies that store food in warehouses because it is
easier and cheaper, whereas shopping solely at the restaurant depot would not be cost efficient. “We want to be able to get all of the things we need at exceptional quality, at the volume in the
quantity we need it,” Pasquerello stated. The amount of food that needs to be ordered is based on
the amount of students and approximated serving sizes. Dining Services has different
relationships with all kinds of food manufacturers within the United States. John also mentioned
that Muhlenberg Dining Services does have exclusive agreements with local farmers, but since
the initial shut down it has gotten harder to connect as frequently as before. He mentioned a
farmer in Macungie, who provides all the basil for the campus. “In Pennsylvania, from a produce
standpoint, there is only so much we can grow,” John stated, “so whenever we can take
advantage of local relationships, we try to do that as well.”

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