Simmons conversion doesn't put an end to healthy eating

October 07, 2009

Healthy eating is as popular as ever at Penn State. These days, students are always searching for the healthiest options for their daily diets, and Penn State's University Park campus is planning to not only heighten awareness of existing options but enhance them.

During fall 2008, Simmons dining commons was converted to focus entirely on all-healthy dining options. Simmons specializes in tasty, low-calorie entrees and desserts, as well as salad and fruit bars, and its all-healthy menus and meal options have been a hit with many students. Every dining venue has healthy options available, but Simmons has been a destination spot for those who want to focus on healthy eating without other distractions.

As part of Housing and Food Services' strategic plan, Simmons eventually will become residence hall bed space as was recently done with McElwain dining commons. Although the work to convert the Simmons dining space to approximately 70 beds with modern-style lounges and more individualized shared bathrooms was to begin at the end of spring semester 2010, the project start date has been moved to spring semester 2011 with an expected completion date of December 2011.

"We chose to convert McElwain and Simmons dining rooms to bed space because they were already located in residence halls," Stan Latta, assistant vice president for Housing, Food Services and Residence Life, explained. "As we have renovated living areas such as North Halls, we have lost some beds due to the configuration of the space, especially the bathrooms. By making bed space in McElwain and Simmons, we minimize the loss of residence hall space across campus due to past and future renovation projects. Maintaining our capacity and occupancy is a critical factor in balancing our budget and keeping room and board rates as low as possible. The renovations to Simmons will open the door to additional opportunities for healthy eating across campus and offer students some prime bed space in a great location."

In addition, Latta said, "We recently confirmed that we will be renovating Pollock dining commons. When this became evident, it made sense to do the Simmons and Pollock projects in tandem. By postponing the Simmons work for a year, we will have even more time to work with students on the design of the Simmons conversion and the Pollock renovation as well as the enhancement of our healthy dining options."

Lisa Wandel, director of Residential Dining, said, "This move gives us the chance to take some of the components of what has made Simmons popular and include them in other dining commons. We want to spread it out to the other areas. It's a way to really enhance and grow the program."

"We are in the process of selecting an architect to redesign the food service operation in Pollock," Latta noted. "The staff in Residential Dining have been researching new concepts and talking with their colleagues at other institutions regarding the development of the latest trends in student dining experiences for students. The staff and I are looking forward to sharing these ideas with students and working with the Association of Residence Hall Students (AHRS), the Schreyers Honors College and the students who dine in Simmons and Pollock to find out what they would most like to see as we move forward with the renovation," he said.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 13, 2009