Sharing tables

The DC fosters community through sharing food

In the past few weeks, students may have noticed some differences from last year in the Zorn Dining Commons. Last year due to the COVID restrictions limiting the amount of people able to gather, events at the DC (dining commons) didn’t happen often. This year however, KSC Dining Services is making an effort to hold more events for students to enjoy.

On Tuesday, October 18, the DC held a make your own mug cake event where students could show up and get a pre-made mug cake kit. Whitney Hightower, the marketing manager and dietician with Keene State Dining Services explained how Tuesday’s event varied from how it might have been done in the past.

“A couple of years ago something like the DIY mug cake for [Tuesday] might’ve been a much bigger deal, and kind of in scope than it is right now,” Said Hightower. “Instead of having every student line-up with the ingredients of the mug cake and microwaving their own, we’re making kits so that we can keep traffic moving.”

Events at the DC can vary in size and scope. Some take up only one station, while other times a theme will affect the whole dining commons.

“So an event that we had in September, like Localvore, that is a multi-station takeover in the DC. We had stuff going on outside and inside. We brought in a lot of products we don’t normally have from local vendors to really highlight what this region has to offer in terms of food,” Hightower said. “And then sometimes it’s as small as like, surprise, we’re doing a dumpling pop-up, you know?”

Sometimes these events are advertised campus-wide to let students know about them. They are advertised on OwlNet as well as the dining service social media accounts (Instagram: keenestatedining). In other cases the events will be a surprise for students to happen upon while getting their food.

For instance, Hightower described some of the events done last month that were just pop-ups during certain meal periods. “It’s just like a special surprise in the DC. So a couple of things we did last month were an Arnold Palmer bar… we had glass mason jars and reusable straws, and you can make your own Arnold Palmer with tea and lemonade and mix-ins and things like that…or we had like an iced coffee bar at the beginning. That was our first event that we put on at the beginning of September to highlight Terra Nova that was coming into Lloyd’s.”

The way Dining Services decides which events will be held each month depends on the month. “We’re given a proposed calendar. These are events that you can hold during the month of September, October, November, December, based off of what national events are happening that month,” Hightower said. One of the seasonal events that is happening this month is the Halloween Drive-in on October 28.

Event ideas can be planned by students and student organizations as well. Hightower said that for certain events she will reach out to various on campus organizations to help plan and facilitate the event.

“Some events are driven primarily by a different department on campus. So maybe I’ll approach a department on campus and say, hey, are you interested in collaborating on this type of event?”

Sometimes students might have their own ideas for events they’d like to see in the DC, in which case Hightower hopes they will reach out to her. “They can reach out via Dine On Campus or social media…if they or their campus organization wants to do something, they have a vision for an event that revolves around food, I would love to hear from them. I am directly responsible for putting those things together and the more input I get from students and the more collaboration opportunities, the better in my opinion.”

Events in the DC are an important part of on campus life, since the dining experience is one thing that everyone at Keene has in common. Hightower mentioned the importance of a good food experience. “The purpose of these events is to celebrate food and to celebrate what it means to be a student at Keene State, to highlight what our region has to offer in terms of food. And also just celebrate what we can do as a dining operation.”

Hightower also said that with the very different year we had due to COVID that the DC remains one place on campus where students can still gather and share something as a community, and that these events give students something special to do there. “It’ll give you an excuse to kind of re-engage with the world around you because you know, it’s a scary time and it has been scary. And I can understand that hesitancy and we want to encourage people to safely gather and we can do that around special events like this.”

Keene State Eco-Reps and Sustainability each hosted events at the DC recently, but did not respond to requests made by the Equinox for an interview. Whitney Hightower can be contacted at whitney.hightower@ compass-usa.com, or via Dine On Campus.

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