When it comes to college dining, students have increasingly healthy and flexible options—a long way from the “cafeteria food” of years past. Many colleges offer modern dining halls in combination with retail chain offerings or campus restaurants, covered under a variety of meal plans to suit both on- and off-campus living.

What does a typical meal plan look like? How are dining halls and retail offerings set up around campus? We asked Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, catering to approximately 2,200 undergraduate students, to enlighten us about the college dining experience using their comprehensive meal plan as an example.

One of four featured salads offered at Fox Lodge Grill, where there's something for all types of tastes and diets fresh out of the kitchen.

What do meal plans look like at most colleges?

Colleges know how important high-quality food is to the health and success of their students, and many colleges offer a range of food choices, delivered in a number of formats, while also accommodating dietary restrictions. Ranging from all-you-can-eat buffets to using “swipes” or points on preloaded Student ID cards at retail locations housed on campus, dining services make it easy to enjoy a variety of offerings that aim to make students happy.

Rollins College is no exception! Our goal is to have the best campus dining program in the country, and we innovate every semester with innovative concepts that create excitement for our students. Almost all of our offerings are made from scratch and utilize locally sourced foods when possible. We incorporate special calendar celebrations surrounding food and offer a wide variety of ethnic foods and flavor combinations.

Rollins’ dining services offers seven dining locations consisting of one main dining hall and six retail locations. Our main dining hall, The Marketplace, features 13 different food stations so that students have plenty to choose from on a daily basis:

  • Pizza
  • Pasta
  • Salads
  • Soups
  • Grill
  • Chip Bar
  • All Day Breakfast
  • Deli
  • Desserts
  • Vegan
  • Culinary Classics (comfort food)
  • My Kitchen (live prep station)
  • Simple Servings (allergy-free station)

Some flavorful foods at Rollins College's main Marketplace dining hall include international dishes and gourmet pizzas, all prepared in front of guests.

In addition to The Marketplace, students can dine at any of the following retail locations located throughout campus for their convenience:

  • Dave’s Boathouse is a Star-K Kosher and Halal certified facility that offers vegan, dairy- and nut-free, and organic foods.
  • Bush Café provides coffee, smoothies, and grab-and-go offerings.
  • Cornell Café features made-to-order food with a Mexican flair.
  • Fox Lodge houses the school’s massive convenience store, grill, and coffee shop. Students can purchase locally grown produce as well as personal and other grocery items at the C-store.

What about dietary accommodations and restrictions: gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free and others?

Rollins offers a separate allergy-free station for students at The Marketplace. Staff receive special training and the station provides food free from the most common food allergens. Though it is located in the main dining hall, both this space and its kitchen prep area are separated from the other food stations to avoid cross-contamination.

All stations at the Marketplace offer vegetarian and gluten-free options, and there is also an exclusively vegan station. The retail locations cater to many different dietary needs, with dairy-free, nut-free, Kosher, Halal, vegetarian, and vegan to be found on the menus.

Are students required to participate in the meal plan? Are there flexible options or partial meal plans?

All students who live on-campus are required to have a meal plan; there are eight meal plan options for on-campus living and three meal plans for commuters. Those living off-campus who prefer to cook can opt for a more minimal meal plan that still allows them to enjoy the community dining options on campus.

What are some of the most popular dishes, weekly specials, or campus food traditions that your students love or look forward to?

Food is fun, and a great chance for our students to build community, connect, and relax as they share a meal together. Rollins dining works to build an atmosphere to foster this with our weekly traditions.

Our dining services offer a few staple dishes that cannot be missed! Buffalo Chicken Salad Day is one of them. This ”secret” recipe, created by one of our chefs, became so popular that it is now served every Wednesday for lunch. Taco Tuesday is another “must have” dish served every Tuesday for dinner. (Fun fact: 9,000 lbs. of avocado are used every semester to make fresh guacamole!)

Also, once a week at lunchtime, we make fresh pasta in front of students and create a specialty dish for them to try, offering students the opportunity to witness firsthand how their dish is made from scratch. Lastly, we make donuts once a week - hot and fresh - and provide an assortment of toppings so that guests can build their own creation.

Rollins College's Cornell Café is a popular Tex-Mex themed venue at which fresh guacamole, pico de gallo, and pressed tortillas are made daily.

How do you mark holidays or special occasions in the dining halls?

We average two food celebrations every week, whether to honor national food holidays, cultural holidays, or simply to showcase international cuisines. From Hispanic Heritage Month to National Donut Day, we strive to keep things interesting and offer foods students might not see on a weekly basis.

Do the dining halls embrace any green initiatives?

We are proud of our green initiatives in our campus dining, and partner with the students and staff to make these successful. 

We avoid plastic whenever possible.

  • We serve food in our main dining location with china dishes only.
  • Straws on this campus are made of agave or avocado.
  • No plastic bags are used at our dining locations. We use reusable tote bags or paper bags.
  • All retail dining locations use paper to-go containers (including all drinkware), which are both compostable and biodegradable. Forks, knives, and spoons are all made of bamboo.

We compost.

  • We compost everything suitable from the main dining hall.
  • Every week 500 pounds of compostable products are picked up from the main dining hall, which is the equivalent of saving 12 tons in greenhouse gas emissions or removing 30 cars from the road for one year.

We participate in green initiatives to make a difference in our global footprint.

  • Our main dining hall participates in the OZZI program, which provides reusable to-go containers that students, faculty, and staff may use to take food with them. Dirty containers can be traded in for clean ones at the cash register.
  • We participate in the Terracycle Project, which collects plastic gloves used in food preparation for recycling.
  • We stock and sell dozens of fair-trade products at the C-Store.

Curious about more than the food at Rollins College? Read their profile to get started.