Blog : Everyone's Screaming for the UNH Dairy Bar this Summer

By Amanda | Aug 12, 2014 | in

The train station can be an isolating place. People come and go in a hurry, rarely speaking to one another, and the food usually comes out of a vending machine. Not so at the UNH Dairy Bar. Through sustainable initiatives, and partnerships with local farms, the popular eatery provides delicious meals for students, faculty, travelers and anyone looking for a bite even when school isn't in session.

“UNH students may be home for the summer, but we have been busier than ever,” says Dairy Bar Supervisor, Jane Calef.

The UNH Dairy Bar offers lunch options from unique salads to delicious sandwiches. The pesto chicken sandwich and Dairy Bar Club being a few of the town favorites.

Originally run by students of the Thompson Business School until 2007, the UNH Dairy Bar, located at the Durham Amtrak train station, was taken over by UNH Dining Services six years ago keeping eco-friendly practices in mind. Re-opened after a series of renovations to the station, the Dairy Bar met its sustainability goals with extensive composting and recycling programs. Over 75 percent of the products are locally sourced. Take-out containers are compostable, and countertops are made from recycled glass.

Perhaps the biggest sustainable undertaking by UNH Dining Services came a few years ago when the department invested in on-campus high tunnels. The high tunnels allow the Dairy Bar and UNH Dining Services to grow food in their own backyard.

As part of a collaborative program, the high tunnels were implemented by UNH Dining Services, UNH Cooperative Extension, and the N.H. Agricultural Experiment Station at UNH. Located on the campus' agricultural land, the program consists of two high tunnels, one that is heated and one that is not, as well as an outdoor half-acre plot that is used in the spring for growing. The unheated high tunnels, unlike standard green houses, rely more on passive environmental controls.

The crops grown - lettuce, kale, carrots, radishes and more - are part of a cyclical production that uses food waste from the university's dining halls for optimum soil quality. As a result, the Dairy Bar's selection of salads and other produce is of the highest quality.

“The high tunnels have been a great addition to the Dairy Bar, not only have we been able to take sustainability to the next level, but the difference is evident in the taste and freshness of the products,” says Calef.

Director of Dining, Jon Plodzik, has a true appreciation for the high tunnels noting their positive effect on the university and Durham residents.

“The high tunnels have proven to be a wonderful partnership benefitting not only the students of the College of Life Science and Agriculture, (COLSA), but also our patrons of the Dairy Bar," he said.

The program also serves as an educational tool through the Food Production Field Experience course offered to agriculture and sustainability focused students. Students are offered a hands on approach to food production and also provide labor help to the high tunnel's manager.

“It truly is a wonderful relationship where everyone benefits,” says Plodzik.

The educational aspect of the high tunnels serves as a means for students, and patrons, to get a true understanding of what it means to live a farm-to-table lifestyle; with food availability depending on the time of year and crop yield.

“This summer we’ve really been working closely with the high tunnels and high tunnel manager, Ross MacKeil, to create seasonal specials. Right now we are offering a chicken Caesar salad wrap because we have romaine lettuce available,” says Calef. "Another specialty item we have available are purple peppers, which we use in one of our specialty sandwiches.”

Throughout the summer the Dairy Bar has also received or will be receiving tomatoes, strawberries, onions, squash, and zucchini.

Graduate student Kelly Stoner, who says she dines at the eatery about twice a week in the summer, had nothing but praise for the UNH Dairy Bar. Stoner’s favorite thing on the menu is the Greek Salad and although she may come for the food, she stays for the Moose Tracks Ice Cream, her favorite flavor.

Hearing the words "local" and "sustainable" can make customers think "expensive" or "overpriced." The Dairy Bar, however, offers environmentally friendly choices at wallet friendly prices. And, according to Stoner, the prices are college-student friendly.

“I honestly don’t think it’s very expensive, and especially for the quality of food you are receiving," says Stoner. “For me it is worth exactly what I’m paying.”

Plodzik foresees the successes and growth of the Dairy Bar increasing in the coming years.

“It's our hope to continue to build on our successes over the past year, to incorporate more UNH grown products into our menu not only at the Dairy Bar, but in the dining halls as well, on a very consistent basis.”

The UNH Dairy Bar is the perfect place to start or end a train ride, or simply watch the trains roll through; for students to meet and study, and residents to taste the efforts of UNH's agriculture.

The UNH Dairy Bar is a business partner of the Green Alliance, a union of local sustainable businesses promoting environmentally sound business practices and a green co-op offering discounted green products and services to its members. Green Alliance members get a discount of 10 percent off the entire menu and can save $2 to $5 on lunch.

The Dairy Bar has extended hours until 9 p.m. for the remainder of the summer. To learn more about the UNH Dairy Bar click here

Green Alliance members receive 10% off the entire menu at the UNH Dairy Bar. Click here to join the GA.