Georgia State’s dining services do more than make food

For Suzanne Paltz, the Dining Hall Manager, the fast pace atmosphere of Piedmont North Dining Hall is just a normal occurrence.

“I’ve been doing this my entire career,” Paltz said. “I started off managing dining halls at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. And then I started [at Georgia State] about four years ago. So for me its my life.”

Every day of the week from sunup to sundown, the dining hall opens, and the staff works seemingly endless hours to prepare food for hundreds of students who walk in on a daily basis. However, according to Paltz, the long days of work are a part of the territory.

“A lot of our staff have come from the restaurant world. So they’re used to having crazy schedules, working nights and working real early in the morning,” Paltz said. “So  a lot of other people who are nine to five types of employees, they wonder how we can do it, but for us it’s just a way of life.”

Although the staff  are used to the working conditions of the dining hall, they do still face other challenges. One of the main ones is making sure that all of the foods produced have nutritional value.

“We have our menus developed with nutrition in mind because we want to be able to offer multiple different types of food,” Paltz said. “We want to make sure that we’re hitting every necessity of a dietary need that a student might have.”

Dining hall management tries to provide as many options to choose from as possible. However, the abundance in variety is sometimes the main issue. Also, it’s served buffet style. So, students can eat as much as they want, which makes it harder to eat healthy.

So, as a way of assisting students with their eating habits in the dining hall, PantherDining Services sought out to educate them on the foods that they were eating.

“I think awareness helps bring about change,” Paltz said.

The main way that they chose to educate students was through the use of a nutrition specialist. Every week the specialist sits in the dining hall on-site and answers any questions students may have.

“Every time I’m in the dining hall I try to compose a plate of healthy food options that are available in [there],” Ashley Knight, one of the nutrition specialist, said. “ We also have nutrition facts, posters, and an email newsletter that comes out every week.”

Having a nutrition specialist on-site is very important to PDS because it helps students stay informed.

“While some people have a good background in nutrition, a lot of them don’t,” Knight said.

Some of the advice that the specialists give to the students teach them which foods to eat more of and which foods to avoid.

“I encourage [students] to incorporate more vegetables into their meals,” Knight said. “ I also ask students what they are drinking.”

After speaking with the specialist, students then have the proper tools to make healthier decisions  regarding what they eat. This is pleasing to the PDS staff because they really do care about the students who come into the dining hall everyday.

“We care what they think,” Lenore Musick, the Director of PantherDining, said. “We care what they say because honestly, if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be able to have the opportunity that we do.”

The PDS staff are really passionate about their jobs and about their duty to the students. For many student, the meals that they eat in the dining halls are the only real meals that they get on a regular basis in college, and the staff  doesn’t take this lightly.

“We’re very proud to be a part of this era of Georgia State,” Musick said. “Our chefs and cooks know students by name…If you sat back and watched some of our staff talk with the students, its great to see how they care.”

Paltz shared similar sentiments.

“We do, obviously, want students to feel like this is an extension of their home,” Paltz said. “You know, it’ll never be their mom or dad’s cooking, obviously, but it is an extension of where they’re from.”

Story idea submitted by Tara Mitchell, Junior