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Acansa Dining Hall: Defining a New Campus Dining Experience at A-State
by Cody Moore, photo submitted by Arkansas State University

Acansa Dining Hall, Arkansas State University’s main cafeteria, recently underwent its first major renovation since the early 2000s. The faculty and student dining hall now features an array of diverse food selections while also taking on a more school-spirited aesthetic.

Sodexo, A-State’s food services provider, funded the $3.5 million Acansa Dining Hall renovation as part of its contractual obligations. Renovations for the project included creating a more open and updated atmosphere while also offering more food options. The Acansa renovations began during the end of the spring 2019 semester and were completed early last month.

“We’ve had numerous requests from students to have more food offerings,” said Bill Smith, associate vice chancellor for marketing and communications at A-State. “The complete Acansa Dining Hall renovation allowed for us to have these new serving areas.”

Acansa Dining Hall currently houses 11 different food areas, including the grill, pizza, entrée, deli, vegetarian, salad, soup and dessert stations. Because of the renovations, Sodexo was able to add three more food areas; international, simple servings, which is a gluten-free and allergen-free station, and the To-Go station, giving faculty and students the option to pick up meals and leave at their own leisure.

“In the past, the entrée line and the grill have been the most popular sections,” said Dan McLain, general manager of Sodexo. “I am excited to see if that changes with the introduction of these new stations.”

Each food station’s menu changes seasonally, along with limited time offers and weekly specials. McLain also states that Sodexo’s goal with the renovation was to add more fresh foods, as well as increase dietary options and variety, which they feel they have done.

“Things such as dietary restrictions are more prevalent nowadays,” said McLain. “We want those students who have these restrictions to enjoy the same college experience as everyone else.”

Aside from the new food sections, Acansa Dining Hall also experienced a major interior renovation.

“The floor plan is now more open,” said Smith. “The color scheme highlights scarlet and black to give the entire space a more school-spirited feel.

“Most walk to the new front entrance and stare for a moment. It’s hard to describe how different the rearranged service areas and more open floor plan make the space look vast.”

Apart from the Acansa Dining Hall project, Sodexo is also working on a new addition to the university food court, which is located across from Acansa Dining Hall in the Reng Student Union.

“A side project with the Acansa renovation is the conversion of one of the food court side slots into what will be called Scarlet’s Kitchen,” said Smith. “Sodexo is working with some local restaurants for the opportunity to do take-overs with their menus, as well.”

“It will be a rotating food concept that changes every couple of weeks,” added McLain.

Current food selections in the faculty and student food court include Chick-fil-A, Howl’s Grill, Godfather’s Pizza and Sushi by Gusto.

With the completion of the Acansa project, both A-State and Sodexo feel accomplished with all they have done to create and promote a space that suits the needs of everyone who walks in Acansa Dining Hall.

“Overall, the space is much more lively,” said Smith. “There’s a different energy, and it’s an exciting thing for our on-campus residents.”

McLain said that with the new renovations, they hope to continue to promote a joyful environment for existing and future students.

Acansa Dining Hall is open to faculty and students Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. To keep up with updates concerning A-State dining, find A-State Dining Services on Facebook and Twitter.