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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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Commons expands menu with better options, students say

Commons upgraded this year with new pizza and latin food stations, an ice cream bar and an iced coffee station coming soon. (Gabi Liebeler)

Thousands of meal-plan wielding students file through The Malkin Sacks Commons every day. Returning sophomores may be pleasantly surprised to find the Commons upgraded with the Adobo Cantina Latin American food station, Baba’s NY Style Pizzeria and an expanded ice cream bar. 

Other additions to the dining hall include Popcake pancake machines and new partnerships with local businesses like Community Coffee, Poke Loa, Ruby Slipper and Café du Monde. Iced coffee and cappuccino stations will also be available soon, according to Wesley Turnage, campus general manager at Tulane University Dining Services by Sodexo. 

“We at Tulane Dining Services by Sodexo are constantly evolving our services and offerings to better meet the needs of Tulane students and the university community,” Turnage said. “We also rely heavily on feedback from students locally and nationally to understand the wants and needs of today’s students.” 

Commons has new dishes this year, sparing students the discolored plates of last year. (Caroline Kinsey)

Some students complained last year of mixed experiences with food quality, cross-contamination and dirty dishes. 

Sophomore Ellie French said she is allergic to eggs, sesame, peanuts and treenuts; the latter two would cause anaphylactic shock. Last year, she said had three allergic reactions from the Commons’ food that were missing labels of her allergens. The third was from a churro twist served at breakfast that did not say it included eggs. 

“Two of the times that I had a reaction, it was because of a sauce that they added onto the chicken without saying that the sauce had sesame in it,” French said. “It’s not that I can’t eat anything from [the Commons], it’s that they didn’t list it.” 

The Simplified station on the second floor, for students with food sensitivities and allergies, serves food without any of the nine top allergens. French said she has not used this room because the food is also gluten and dairy free, which leaves not many palatable food options for her. 

“We work hard to ensure that all food items in the resident dining spaces are properly labeled and identified for the allergens contained in that item,” Turnage said. “All our management staff and Simplified workers hold valid AllerTrain certificates to ensure we are all educated on the most up-to-date allergen awareness and service information.” 

Caroline Kinsey found metal in her pasta at Commons last year, which she suspected came from scraping the pan. (Caroline Kinsey)

Last year, Sophomore Caroline Kinsey said she found pieces of metal in her chicken and pasta. 

“It seems like they cooked it on a metal like tray or something and then scraped it so there were metal scrapings in my pasta,” Kinsey said. 

Deionne Duplessis has worked as a baker in the Commons since October 2020. When speaking out about student satisfaction, Duplessis said students must be enjoying her baked goods based on how fast they leave the tray. 

Duplessis said some issues with food quality last year could have been due to staffing issues. She said two different temp agencies were supplying workers last year, which could lead to staff not experienced in their food serving station. 

“People take pride when they know it’s their job and their responsibility,” Duplessis said. “When folks are coming and going, and just thrown into an area because, ‘We need you here,’ it’s a totally different story.” 

Freshman Josh Sasson said he has an unlimited meal plan and “very much” likes the food, often stopping by the Commons six times per day. 

French said she has an unlimited meal plan again this year and she still prefers the Commons over the Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life. Foods are not labeled with allergens in the LBC and French said workers often do not know what allergens are in the food they are serving. 

“[At] the Commons I can find [allergens] online or I can look at the sign, which is way easier,” French said. “I just find this easier and I’m more comfortable.” 

French said overall she is satisfied by the Commons food. She has noticed the Chef’s Table serving new cuisines, the pizza station making big improvements and is consistently impressed by the Commons’ breakfast offerings. 

“I love Commons’ breakfast. They always have smoothies,” French said. “It’s rare that there’s a bomb lunch and a bomb dinner … but I can always find something.” 

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