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Offer feta cheese at campus dining locations

By Emily Sorkin Smith

Section: Opinions

February 5, 2016

Dining hall food is notoriously bad, and Brandeis is no exception to this rule. We’ve written about it and protested about it, and yet it seems the quality of the food never improved. Plates are still often dirty, requiring diners to pick up several different ones before they find something clean. There are still days when popcorn replaces the pasta bar, eliminating a popular meal and reducing the number of options students have. I had all but given up on Sodexo when, one day last week, they did something that gave me hope. In a small silver container alongside the hot foods, they provided feta cheese. It transformed an otherwise bland meal into an edible and exciting lunch.

In its salad bar, Lower Usdan typically provides only one type of cheese. Sodexo offers pre-shredded, fluorescent orange cheddar, satisfying neither taste nor health concerns. This cheese, though it might be lower in cost than some other cheeses, is hardly a good option. Feta is one of the only cheeses that works equally well in salads as it does on hot foods, and it does not require chemical dyes to make it appealing. It can be easily added to pizza and goes well in omelettes and pasta salads. The versatility of feta means that it can be bought in bulk and used for multiple dishes, unlike other specialty ingredients that can only be used in certain products.

Cheddar, the only type of cheese Sodexo regularly serves, is higher in both calories and sodium than feta, with 9.5 grams of sodium and 110 calories as opposed to just 6 grams of sodium and 74 calories, according to CNN Food Central. In a dining hall where much of the food is incredibly high in sodium, offering a healthier cheese option benefits all diners. For vegetarians, feta could provide a vital source of protein without adding too many calories.

“The feta in the dining hall was a welcome, but utterly surprising, treat. In my omelette? Delicious. My salad? Probably the best one I have had in lower Usdan,” said Matt Schattner ’18. “I had moved beyond expecting an expansion of the cheese range in the dining hall, so the sight of feta completely shocked me. It was game-changing.”

Cheddar can only be used in American cuisine, allowing for no diversity. Feta is a traditional ingredient in Greece, Iran, Israel, Turkey and several other countries. The process for producing feta cheese was described in Homer’s “Odyssey.” Such a rich and diverse traditional background is found in few foods, especially foods than cater to students’ health needs and the school’s budgetary restrictions.

Instead of occasionally putting on theme nights, most of which are disappointing, Sodexo should focus their efforts on what has proven to work for its customers. They should provide options that would work for many different people in a variety of dishes.

If Sodexo provided a small container of feta cheese alongside the cheddar cheese and other salad toppers, they would be giving their customers an easy way to satisfy their appetites and vary their diets.

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