Final Reflections on WVU Dining Services Rotation

After spending 5 weeks rotating with WVU dining services, working with the dietitian and food service staff, I have a much more complete view of the role of a food service dietitian and a greater appreciation for the work they do.  Over the past five weeks I have been able to: work with food service administration to design staff in-services, wellness programs, and plan employee schedules; work with production staff in multiple dining facilities to learn about cash operations, assist with food preparation, design production schedules, and assist with catering events; conduct temperature, quality, and waste studies; assist with the farmer’s market and hold a student forum to promote local foods; design new meals and put together week-long menus, conduct recipe and cost analysis; and design and conduct a process improvement project on portion control.  In addition to food service activities, I have managed to attend and conduct nutrition counseling sessions, assess body composition, create meal plans, lead and assist with grocery store and dining hall tours, speak with athletic teams, and observe the interactions between the strength and condition staff, athletic coaches and the sports dietitian.  These past five weeks have been busy with a wide variety of activities to ensure that I walk away from this experience fully prepared to tackle the food service industry as a registered dietitian.

My favorite part of the rotation was the week I spent with the sports dietitian.  I had never imagined that I would end up liking sports nutrition as much as I did.  I found it fascinating and very enjoyable to work closely with student athletes.  This was also my first experience with outpatient nutrition counseling and I enjoyed that very much and was surprised how naturally it flowed.  I learned a great deal from the dietitian and listening to her converse with athletes and from her feedback on my counseling skills. (See my previous blog post about this section here!)

I learned so much from each of these activities and how the entire process works together to seamlessly serve thousands of students each day.  I learned the importance of knowing job descriptions in order to be able to contact the correct individual with concerns or consultations. In such a large institution it can seem overwhelming to determine who does what but after my time spent here I realize that that aspect just takes time.  I feel confident in my abilities and my understanding of the role of a dietitian in a food service organization and I can see the need to refill the open position with WVU Dining Services as soon as possible.

I find it very interesting when you think about how many different allergies and diets the staff must accommodate here at Café Evansdale.  This is definitely a skill I need to refine prior to working in a food service establishment.  It is difficult to know exactly which items contain some of the not-so-common allergens.  Part of learning this would come with time and dealing with this on a regular basis and becoming familiar with the food that is served.  I am thankful for having this opportunity to complete this rotation and have learned a tremendous amount of information that has helped me understand food service on a larger scale.


Pastry Chef – Recipe Analysis

A few days ago I had the opportunity to spend half a day with the pastry chef for WVU Dining Services.  He took the time to show me all the storage and the different products they have!  He brought up an interesting point when he noted that the reduced calorie, low-fat, and “healthy” desserts that they purchase have ingredient list that are super long and many of the ingredients do not even sound like real food.  He said that people might be better off just eating the real dessert in a smaller portion than eating this chemically created version and I agree with him!  In efforts to analyze this new and “all-natural” brand they are considering purchasing I compared it with the products that they currently serve.  I found it very interesting to see that all-in-all there was not a  whole lot of difference between most of the recipes.  Check out my analysis below.  It was ran using the Food Processor Software.  In addition to conducting nutrition analysis I also helped prepare the sour cream muffins with added fruit for the day.

Bakery Comparisons

WVU Dining Services

This past two weeks I have been with West Virginia University’s Dining Services completing my institutional food service, production and management rotation.  I have had the opportunity to work with many people and every day is something new!  One of fun things I got to assist with is the WVU Farmer’s Market last Thursday.  I worked with the director to work the booth to promote fresh, local, and healthy foods.  This week we were serving up Tabbouleh, a Lebanese salad.  Prior to this experience I had never heard to Tabbouleh so it was an awesome chance to experience a new healthy food.  This was made with all local ingredients grown in West Virginia, with the exception of the bulgar wheat which we couldn’t find locally!  Over the course of two and half hours we handed out almost 300 servings!  You could tell immediately who was from Middle East and familiar with Tabbouleh by their comments on our samples…”Where’s the parsley?”  The traditional recipe calls for much more parsley and less grains but in order to appeal to the majority of students we “Americanized” to tone down the flavor!  Everyone really loved it!  It was a great experience to be able to enjoy the campus farmer’s market while promoting healthy, local options!


Tabbouleh Recipe Card

Tabbouleh Recipe Card


Tabbouleh Nutrition Facts and Directions

Tabbouleh Nutrition Facts and Directions


Tabbouleh Stand at the WVU Farmer's Market

Tabbouleh Stand at the WVU Farmer’s Market