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Y. FOOD SERVICES NO. 1 IN NATION

Probably the single biggest food operation in the state - and one of the largest in the nation - isn't located near any Golden Arches, but it does operate in the shadow of a very big block Y.

Last year, according to Restaurants and Institutions Magazine, Brigham Young University's Food Services dished out more than 11 million meals to students, staff and guests, making it No. 1 among colleges in the nation in meals served.Other big schools, such as Michigan State and the University of Pennsylvania, may spend more money on food services, but BYU serves significantly more meals, due to several factors, according to Samuel Brooks, BYU Food Services director.

BYU enjoys a very high participation rate - more than 85 percent - among the 6,000 residents of its boarding halls.

"Our students don't miss meals," explained Brooks. "Most normal college food services average about 70 percent, but we've got high participation everywhere on campus."

Part of that high involvement is due to the accessibility of the housing center cafeterias and the fact that resident students can make and take their own sack lunches with them to class.

"The distance from Deseret Towers to certain academic buildings is so far that the students don't have time to go back for lunch," Brooks said.

Another factor is the LDS Church's Missionary Training Center located on the BYU campus, which contracts with BYU Food Services for its cafeteria.

"We have a more than 95-percent participation rate by the missionaries," said Brooks.

The MTC cafeteria is much more than a place to eat for the several thousand missionaries who gather there three times a day, 365 days a year, often after several hours of intensive language and scriptural study.

"Mealtime is a diversion time for them," explained Brooks. "They're reading their letters as they stand in line and chatting with each other."

The social aspect of the MTC cafeteria is not without its drawbacks for the Food Service workers.

"At the Helaman Halls or Deseret Towers cafeterias, we can usually get the students through the serving lines at the rate of seven people per minute," said Brooks. "At the MTC, we're lucky if we can get four people through per minute. It drives us crazy."

The LDS Church is planning an expansion of the MTC Cafeteria.

"Right now we're able to seat about 500 at the MTC food service, but when the remodeling is finished, we'll be able to seat 1,150," said Brooks.

In addition to the residence hall and MTC cafeterias, Food Services operates the Wilkinson Center cafeterias and Skyroom, nearly 400 vending machines across campus, concessions for the Marriott Center and Cougar Stadium and a large catering business, all of which brought in more than $23 million last year.

A significant portion of those sales occurs every year in August with BYU's popular Education Week. Nearly 30,000 people from throughout the nation descend on the campus for the four-day event, bringing with them distinctly different tastes and food preferences.

"It's a more mature audience," explained Brooks. "For example, during the school year we sell about 160 dozen croissants a week. During Education Week, however, we sell about 300 dozen croissants."

The largest student employer on campus, BYU Food Services hires about 1,400 student workers, supervised by a staff of 131 full-time employees.