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Liberty Dining Services reaps awards while offering students fun, savory atmosphere

With fires blazing and tunes blaring, managers for Liberty University Dining Services came together on Wednesday night for a cook-off at The Food Court at Reber-Thomas , giving students a taste of their best creations themed to various music eras.

“The atmosphere here (at the dining hall) is really good, especially on nights like tonight,” said junior Micaela Hardyman. “It’s just very fun, and you can tell that both the staff and students are enjoying it.”

This year’s theme for the annual competition was Battle of the Managers. Each manager-led team dressed up, decorated its station, and created an appetizing menu based on its music era. A 1950s soda shop served burgers, fries, and Coca-Cola floats, a “Thriller” station featured creeping culinary presentations like green pasta, and a 1970s “Soul Train” crew served chicken wings, barbeque meatballs, and fried corn cakes. Students voted on their favorite station. The winning group had a rock band theme with arena concession food options, like nachos and candy (Pop Rocks and Pixy Stix), reminiscent of the glittering hair-band era. Students played the Rock Band video game in a PlayStation area.

“We like to do this every year to give students something special and different,” said Duke Davis, Sodexo general manager. “It gives the managers and staff a chance to engage with students and show them a good time.”

This event was just one of several ways Liberty and Sodexo, its dining services provider, strive to provide an unrivaled collegiate dining experience. Liberty has been immensely successful in achieving this goal, continuously earning high rankings in the food service industry. Liberty was recently rated third in the nation on the Daily Meal’s 75 Best Colleges for Food 2017 and third on Food Services Director’s 10 Best Colleges for Food national ranking. Liberty was also ranked third for the 2018 Best College Food in Virginia by Niche, which rates a number of colleges in several areas. Niche also gave the university an A-plus rating for its campus food.

In addition, Liberty’s dining hall has been rated No. 1 in the country by BestColleges.com for two straight years, 2015 and 2016 (2017 has yet to be announced).

But as Wednesday night’s event showed, it is not just the critics taking note — students are appreciative of these efforts.

“They add new things every year to show their commitment to the types of food we like, and they’re always trying to change it up,” said Chelsea Holbert, a graduate student studying counseling. “There are always a variety of food options here. I never feel like I don’t want to go to the dining hall because there is always something new and exciting.”

Davis said Liberty tries to innovate each semester with something new in the dining hall. This semester, Liberty began serving fresh-made fried chicken and sushi. A new pasta maker was also added for customized noodle dishes.

Liberty dining is not limited to The Food Court at Reber-Thomas; retail dining locations are located all across campus, and there is even a food truck that parks at different locations.

In direct response to students wishing for more ethnically diverse foods, the university opened Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill and Star Ginger (an Asian grill and pho noodle bar) in the Montview Student Union. Both are the top performing locations for those concepts in the country. Montview’s tea room, Argo Tea, is No. 2 in the country for the brand, behind only the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Over the summer, Liberty expanded the campus Chick-Fil-A in Marie F. Green Hall into a full-service location, now offering breakfast.

Liberty’s commitment to excellence also includes providing a safe environment for those with allergies, offering various options to encourage a healthy lifestyle.

During the National Restaurant Association annual show in Chicago in May, Liberty received an award from AllerTrain for Best Food Allergy Training at a university. Liberty has earned Mindful Gold status from Sodexo in recognition of its commitment to make healthy meals widely accessible.

“We are very much committed to the well-being of our students,” Davis said. “That is reflected in the variety we offer students, making it simpler for them to choose healthy options. But we also strive to give them what they want, and that includes listening to feedback, knowing the latest trends, and doing our best to offer them the food they want with uncompromised quality.”

Liberty Dining Services operates 22 platforms in The Food Court at Reber-Thomas as well as 23 retail locations throughout campus. Read more about these dining options at LibertyDining.com.

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