Pomona Dining Services Takes New Approach

When the ball dropped Jan. 1, the countdown began for Glenn Graziano, the new General Manager for Pomona’s dining halls. Seated at a small desk in the back recesses of Frank Dining Hall, Graziano’s computer is framed by two photos of his daughters. It seemed from the first day of the year that the little back office had become more of a home for him than the place he sleeps.

“We had to pull everything together in two weeks,” said Graziano. “Starting from scratch and [with] a few bare kitchens, we had to resign vendors, reschedule drop-offs, everything.”

After a number of sleepless nights—and a developing new coffee addiction—Graziano and his management team opened the doors of Pomona’s dining halls and kicked off the semester with a new philosophy toward on-campus food.

“When a student walks through the doors into a dining hall, I want them to just be blown away,” said Graziano.

One of Graziano’s focuses is sustainability. In an ambitious move, the new management team aims to serve only locally sourced, organic products.

“We’re looking to serve sustainable and healthy foods,” Sustainable Food and Purchasing Coordinator Samantha Meyer PO ’10 said.

“We’re serving only humane beef, free-range chicken, and cage-free eggs,” said Graziano. “We’re trying to rid the kitchen of hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup.”

This commitment to sustainability, a passion for both Graziano and Meyer, is far more than the result of the newest “green” fad.

“I’m passionate about sustainability,” Graziano said. “I mean, I drive a Prius, a hybrid car, because I like being green… Throughout my career, I’ve tried to use organic products as much as possible. It’s more difficult to be green in some places; not all companies are as receptive to this sort of mentality. It’s refreshing to be in this kind of environment.”

Meyer, who worked with the previous Sodexo management team last semester, has had a passion for the environment from a young age. Her interest developed into a career when she realized that “eating is the most basic thing that we do, and yet we have such a twisted relationship with the environment.”

This relationship motivates Samantha to dedicate herself to sustainability in the campus dining halls.

“I really want to focus on healing our relationship with the environment,” she said. “I want to engage people with their food, make them think about what they’re putting on their plate and where it came from. Pomona is a place for learning; I want to extend that learning environment into the dining halls. I want them to know that we’re proud of what we have and that we’re proud of what we’re serving them.”

Appreciating sustainability and actually being sustainable, however, are different things according to Meyer. For her, the first step to ensuring the food we eat at the dining halls leaves a minimal carbon footprint is to maintain a standard that requires food to be sourced from local companies.

“Everything we serve is local,” Meyer said. She defines “local” food by separating it into two categories: processed and unprocessed.

“Unprocessed foods, like grains and produce, are grown within a 250-mile radius,” she said. “With the processed foods, like baked goods and ice cream, not all the ingredients have to be locally sourced. But again, by buying only from businesses in the area we’re supporting local businesses, and that’s a big part of sustainability. We’re supporting local companies and engaging with the local community.”

In their first few weeks on the job, the new management team has also been brought up to date on the growing discord between the administration and dining hall staff. Graziano described his philosophy toward the relationship between management and dining hall staff as operating on “efficiency and quality in the service of the customer.”

Although it is only three weeks into the semester, Graziano said that he and his team hope to engage students in the transition and are excited about the future of mealtimes on campus.

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