Simple Plate brings simple solutions

Union Drive Marketplace opened a new venue in its dining center called “Simple Plate.” “Simple Plate” aims to create simple, international cuisine dishes so they are readily available to students.


ISU dining has brought both local and international cuisine to students’ fingertips with a new project that you may have already noticed and love.

At the beginning of January, the Union Drive Marketplace opened up a new venue in its dining center simply called “Simple Plate”. According to Lisa Nolting, program coordinator of ISU campus’ dining services, “There was a fire this summer at the UDM “Grill” venue, so we had to come up with a plan.” Fortunately for Iowa State, the plan had already long been underway.

Venue updates or “refreshes” are not uncommon to Iowa State’s growing population and the objective was to develop a new venue that offered simple solutions for healthier dietary choices, yet was not projected to be integrated into the dining center for potentially another five years. The summer fire set the plan in motion and a new venue was born.

After much planning and discussion, Simple Plate was decided upon and the project was given the green light. The remaining summer and fall 2014 semester was spent renovating the previous venue into the new one.

“The reason we wanted to do that concept, is people are more and more in tune with what they’re eating and looking for foods that are less processed – which is a good thing – and that’s how the idea came about,” Nolting said.

Simple Plate offers just that – simple food that students will simply enjoy.

Simple Plate offers “simple” food in the sense that it has minimal or no processing and is more wholesome than some of the other options available to students. The focus is to offer students more vegetables, more whole grains and more lean protein, all in one plate. This helps students reduce time spent searching out these healthy choices at the dining center.

According to Jeremy Bowker, Chef de Cuisine for campus dining services, Simple Plate’s goal is to give students an option that is healthy, nutrition-focused and also to provide a centralized area to go with anticipation.

“I really like how everything is super healthy and tastes really good and is food that I would make for myself, but it’s kind of fancy too,” said April Blais, senior in industrial engineering. “For me, the portion size is pretty good.”

Simple Plate’s convenience of putting nutritious food all on one plate that will appeal to students is Nolting’s “one-stop shop” idea where students can expect to find consistently simple options of a lean meat choice, whole grains and whole vegetables. Coupled with a piece of fruit and a side salad, Simple Plate is designed to meet a meal requirement almost by itself.

“We really focus on the portioning, [and providing] experience to new flavors, especially bold flavors that people are not as used to but can decide to like,”  Bowker said.

“It gives people healthy options and more fresh choices, and also with the increase of students gives people a whole different area to get food at to shorten the lines,” Blais said.

According to Jennifer Ross, manager of campus dining services, Simple Plate was created so “students can just walk up there, grab a plate and not have to read all [the] signage on calories and ingredients or portion sizes … or really have to worry about them.”

Ross foresees Simple Plate benefiting everyone and the project continuing for some time due to its popularity.

“I think it has been popular since [it] opened in January. The food is served on a different plate and students are really enjoying it,” Ross added.

Eating healthy and making smart choices in a buffet-style dining center is not impossible, but it does take a nutrition-focused mindset.

“I really like the healthy options that come with Simple Plate, as I basically try to eat really healthy food,”  Blais said. “Simple Plate helps make it easier for students to make those healthy choices.”

Ross said that college is a good time to experience new things and try new foods and Simple Plate is offering new, simple foods that students won’t get at home.

“We focus on the seasonality foods, focus on trends, what’s hot in university foods, what are people looking for, do some testing and then put it out there and see what students like. Some items people are not familiar with, but it gives them the option to try it – you’re always going to find something to eat at UDM,” Bowker said.