Dining Services Expands Sustainable Practices, Selection of World Cuisines and Vegan Dishes

woman in a chef's hat holding up a beater covered in white cookie batterThe student Grub Club has spoken: This fall, Pitt’s dining halls feature new recipes from around the globe and an expanded variety of plant-based dishes, as well as locally sourced organic chicken. And there’s an emphasis on sustainability — even in the to-go containers and bags at Pitt’s grocery spots.

The University’s food committee, nicknamed the Grub Club, brings Pitt dining managers together with as many as 100 students biweekly.

“The students tell us what we’re not doing, what they’d like to see,” said Abdou Cole, resident district manager for Pitt’s Dining Services, Sodexo. “They also give us ideas for new concepts.”

As a result, last year’s pop-up Forward Food station in Market Central, which tried out a new plant-based vegan cuisine, is now part of lunch and dinner seven days a week.

“Plant-based dining is a culinary trend that has become very popular and it’s just going to increase over the next few years,” said chef Chris Cox.

Because the Office of the Provost has declared this academic year the Year of Healthy U, Pitt dining also has expanded its "mindful" offerings. These are lighter meal selections in smaller portions, using whole grains and other plants as well as lean meats. Offerings include lentil salad with citrus vinaigrette, mushroom chili, quinoa tabbouleh and lime-infused black bean and corn salad.

Pitt’s fresh chicken dishes will now use birds raised on a vegetarian diet free of antibiotics and growth hormones on a farm in Kidron, Ohio, just two hours from campus.

“We’re doing this to provide a healthier option,” said Cox. Plus, he added, “the taste is amazing.”

Gluten-free Offerings at Pitt

Market Central, Pitt’s largest dining facility, has a special allergy-free zone, where meals free of gluten, dairy, soy, peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish are prepared on dedicated equipment by staff trained to prevent cross contamination among food items.

The union’s Schenley Cafe makes gluten-free pasta dishes and grilled chicken sandwiches on gluten-free buns, while the Cathedral Café has gluten-free to-go sandwiches, salads and dressings.

The Oakland Bakery and Market offers granolas and edamame, dried fruits and a variety of chips and frozen meals that are all gluten-free.

And Pitt’s coffee carts (see map below for locations) have gluten-free NuGo protein bars and fresh fruit alongside the usual coffeehouse fare.

Quick Zone retail spots sell a large variety of gluten-free chips, pretzels and popcorn, as well as condiments, pastas, baked goods, waffles, crackers and frozen dishes.

And there's more campus food news. The Pitt Farmers Market schedule will expand to weekly this fall — another response to student demand, said Cole. On Thursdays, beginning on Aug. 31 and lasting through Oct. 26, students can use Dining Dollars to buy fresh produce, baked goods and food-truck offerings at the market, right in the William Pitt Union driveway, from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Student concerns about a healthy planet have prompted a switch to reusable to-go containers as well. The program, called Choose to Reuse, launches this fall in the Union’s Schenley Café. Pitt already has programs encouraging reusable bags and mugs; now, for a one-time $5 fee, students can return their reusable takeout containers and get a token for the next one, plus a 10-cent discount on every subsequent meal, to encourage continued use.

“That has the potential to save us a large amount of waste,” said Nick Goodfellow, sustainability coordinator for Pitt’s Dining Services. “We’re looking at making this a campus-wide program.”

Oakland Bakery and Market has added produce, and Cole said to look for an announcement around November about new grocery items that will “excite the campus.” For students in need of a few grocery items or prepared food to go, a brand new Quick Zone store opens this fall in Sutherland Hall, one of Pitt’s upper-campus residences. The store also offers a Starbucks Express and a gluten-free section.

“Engaging students and exceeding their expectations is important for us,” said Cole. “We are really excited about the new school year.”

FAQs about campus food and beyond

What’s the difference between Dining Dollars and Panther Funds?

Dining Dollars are a part of students’ meal plans and can be used at any Pitt dining location.

Panther Funds are money placed on a prepaid card to supplement the meal plan. Funds can be used at Pitt dining facilities as well as the University Store on Fifth, Pitt laundry facilities and the Pitt Farmers Market, plus a number of local restaurants and grocers such as Giant Eagle Market District. Panther Central has instructions for loading Panther Funds.

Students and anyone else at Pitt not on a meal plan can use cash, Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express at any Pitt dining facility.

How do I change my meal plan?

The meal plan change form is online, along with other downloadable forms. Students have until the last day of the add/drop period (Sept. 8, 2017) to try different options as they learn what plan works best for them.

Where can I get coffee and tea?

Click the blue icons on the image below for details about on-campus places to grab a quick cup or linger over a barista creation.

Where can I get groceries?

From organic to ethnic, from superstores to small specialty shops, Oakland and the neighborhoods next door have the grocery items students need and crave. Here’s a handy guide, including their distance from the Cathedral of Learning. The bus stop on Fifth Avenue by the Cathedral is also where you can pick up buses listed (more info on getting around here).

Specialty Shops Nearby

Kohli’s Indian Imports
319 S. Craig St.
0.3 miles away

Las Palmas (Mexican)
326 Atwood St.
0.5 miles away

Seoul Mart (Korean)
4701 Fifth Ave.
0.5 miles away

Merante Groceria (Italian)
3454 Bates St.
0.7 miles away

Sultan Bey (Turkish and halal)
4601 Centre Ave
0.7 miles away

Salim’s Middle Eastern Foods
4705 Centre Ave.
0.9 miles away

Giant Eagle Market District
5550 Centre Ave.
1.8 miles away
via 71A or 71C to Centre Ave. at Negley Ave. (Market District)

Whole Foods Market
5880 Centre Ave.
2.1 miles away
via 71A or 71C to Centre Ave. at Negley Ave.
71B to Highland Ave. Opposite Baum Blvd.
75 to Ellsworth Ave. at Spahr St.

ALDI
5631 Baum Blvd.
2.2 miles away
via 71A or 71C to Negley Ave. at Baum Blvd.

Trader Joe’s
6343 Penn Ave.
2.4 miles away
via 71C to Penn Ave. at Shady Ave.

Where are various food trucks today?

Mobile Nom, built by Pitt students, tracks the locations, menus and hours of Oakland’s food trucks.

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