UH Dining plans to add options as part of facilities upgrade

Renovation plans will renew dining hall facilities and increase vegetarian and vegan options with input from students and the UH community.

‘Currently, we have vegetarian features at each station,’ UH marketing manager for Dining Services Sevelia Johnson said. ‘The renovation will increase the number of stations so vegetarian options will increase as well.’

Vegetarian and vegan dining choices on campus are slim, but the University has made a commitment, which coincides with National Vegan Month in November, to improve these choices.

Plans to overhaul the dining facilities at Moody Towers were approved by the Board of Regents earlier this year.

According to a University press release, the project is estimated to cost $10 million and will be funded by ‘rent collected from Aramark, the University’s food service provider.’ SGA President Kenneth Fomunung said there is only one remaining approval needed for the Moody Towers project.

‘The final step is to take it to the Texas (Higher Education) Coordinating Board for approval, which is required on any project over $4 million,’ Fomunung said. ‘It should go before the board in January or February 2010.’

After the final approval, Fomunung said that the renovation would begin in May 2010 and would be completed in time for the beginning of the fall semester.

The renovation will not only expand food choices, but change the way food is prepared.

‘We are trying to revamp Moody and Oberholtzer so that it is a made-to-order environment,’ University Services program coordinator Jonas Chin said. ‘Made-to-order, meaning, you go to a station and say this is what I would like in my food and they would cook it in front of you, this is part of the new vision for UH dining starting next year.’

Not all students seeking vegetarian and vegan meals are able to trek to Moody Towers since it is not centrally located. Johnson acknowledged the need for expanding these offerings throughout the campus.

‘Across campus, no matter where you are, there are always vegetarian and vegan options available,’ Johnson said. ‘We continue to increase our efforts to expand these options as demand increases.’

At the University Center’s Extreme Pita, vegetarians can choose between a falafel pita, or upon special request, a vegan pizza.

Chili’s Too Grill & Bar’s vegetarian options are also limited, relegating diners to a minimalist salad, vegan tacos or chips and guacamole. This could change under the guidance of new dining director Tony Urso.

‘Tony has been talking about doing a refresh of the Chili’s menu,’ Chin said. ‘We are trying to go toward fresher food all around campus, making sure the ingredients are fresher.’

The UC Satellite has a handful of vegetarian options, but many dishes rely on meat substitutes such as tofu or a soy burger. In addition, the restaurants’ early closing hours have been a deterrent for some.

‘In the past years, there were concerns over volume, but with our campus becoming less commuter, it is a good time to look into finding a good healthy option that would stay open into the evening,’ Chin said. ‘There have been questions about a 24-hour food option. We are looking into all of these things to see what we can do to expand hours.’

Chin, who is also a member of the Food Service Advisory Committee, invited all students to a University Services open forum on Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. at the UC as an opportunity to voice their opinions.

For those unable to attend, Chin urged requests to be submitted by e-mail with preferences, menu suggestions and any other feedback to [email protected] He said he will report all student comments at the forum.

[email protected]

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