NMCC opens new dining commons and community teaching kitchen

3 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Northern Maine Community College begins the spring semester with an exciting new feature on campus, the completely remodeled Reed Dining Commons, which became available to students in the final weeks of fall semester after approximately nine months of construction. 

The $4.2 million renovation transformed the 40-year-old structure into an impressive modern dining facility featuring updated cooking and safety equipment, a community teaching kitchen and a brick pizza oven capable of cooking an artisanal pizza in under three minutes. 

“Now more than ever this community is learning the critical role of health in our population, and especially our workforce,” said NMCC President Timothy Crowley. “It has been an ongoing priority to create an environment conducive to a healthy lifestyle for our students and the greater community.” 

The college’s increased focus on wellness began with the introduction of the Smith Wellness Center in 2014 and continued with the remodeled gymnasium and locker rooms in 2019. The new dining facilities are the latest development in this ongoing effort. 

The Center for Disease Control’s ongoing findings show a strong correlation between diet, physical activity and academic achievement. Additionally, local employers have expressed the importance of healthy workers in Aroostook County to college leadership. 

“When we survey local employers about what they’re looking for when hiring our graduates, we consistently hear that they need healthy individuals able to show up consistently for the job. This applies to all fields and industries. It is of critical importance,” said William Egeler, NMCC dean of students.  

The dining commons revitalization was made possible through a donation from Mary Barton Smith in combination with resources from the NMCC Foundation. 

“We are in continued gratitude for the support of Mrs. Smith,” Crowley said. “Her generous donations, in coordination with the funds and efforts of the NMCC Foundation, allow us to ensure a healthy and bright future for our students and the greater community.” 

One important feature of the facility is the community teaching kitchen, which provides a classroom-like setting equipped with culinary necessities such as sinks, ovens and multiple cooking stations. 

“Northern Maine is known for regional treasures like ployes and poutine,” said Robert Ottaviano, NMCC director of food services. “But the region also has a rich history of healthy and hearty recipes that involve local game like deer and trout, and seasonal fruits and vegetables like fiddleheads, squash, and blueberries. 

“The teaching kitchen will allow groups to learn how to plan and prepare meals on a budget, use canning and freezing for storage when necessary, and help transition the community away from a processed diet,” Ottaviano said. 

Throughout construction of the new facilities, students have used temporary dining areas on campus. 

“It is important to acknowledge how understanding and flexible our students and food-services staff have been during this period,” Crowley said. “It was a difficult year in more ways than one, and we’re grateful for the understanding and cooperation we received from everyone involved. Many people worked hard and made compromises to make this possible – this was a true community effort.” 

To learn more about Northern Maine Community College or to discuss opportunities related to the teaching kitchen, please visit the nmcc.edu website or call 207-768-2810. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the community teaching kitchen is not available for use at this time.