UMass Amherst offers 12 new on-campus food stations

From vegan to gluten-free, this campus offers a little bit of everything.

Sept. 12—David Placzek selects raw vegetables from a food counter and drops them into a bowl. In go pieces of onion, rounds of squash, broccoli florets, and slices of colorful bell peppers. He hands it to a chef at a wok, and asks for chicken with spices. In minutes, Placzek’s steaming stir-fried lunch is ready to eat.

The 21-year-old University of Massachusetts-Amherst senior has just visited one of 12 food stations in the newly renovated Hampshire Dining Commons. He might have also sampled made-to-order sushi, rotisserie chicken, gluten-free enchiladas, blackened tilapia, vegetable spaghetti casserole, and more. “I love how many options the dining commons always have out,” Placzek e-mails later.

Last month UMass-Amherst was ranked No. 3 in The Princeton Review’s top 20 for the Best Campus Food list. Findings are based on a recent survey of 126,000 students at 378 colleges. (In 2003, UMass-Amherst food was so bad it made the top 20 list for “Is it Food?”) What distinguishes the dining options now, according to nutritionists and food service representatives, is its commitment to healthy and sustainable food. The campus has four main dining commons, but it is Hampshire, which opened Aug. 6 after nine months and a $15.5 million renovation, that the university hopes will be a model for others around the country.