Dining Services to plan meal options for athletes

Photo by Izzy Burgess ’19  As the newly appointed director of Dining services, Richard Perna plans to revitalize meal options for athletes. 

Photo by Izzy Burgess ’19

As the newly appointed director of Dining services, Richard Perna plans to revitalize meal options for athletes. 


Both students and athletes have been curious about the foods that will be offered at the Blanchard Community Center following the completion of its construction. Richard Perna, director of Dining Services at Mount Holyoke, currently oversees the day-to-day operations of every dining hall on campus. Less visible is the task that is extremely important to Perna: feeding the athletes on Mount Holyoke’s 13 varsity sports teams. As he oversees the dining experience, Perna is looking to expand and improve the ways that Dining Services feeds the athletic department.

A sportsman himself, Perna believes it is extremely important that Mount Holyoke athletes are provided with nutritious meals that help them perform at their highest capacity. “Something that is so important to me as the Dining Director here at Mount Holyoke,” Perna said, “is providing an experience for the whole community that goes beyond food. The student athletes on campus are a part of this community, and they are just as important to my vision for Mount Holyoke dining as every other student on campus.” 

Key facets of Dining Services’ approach to providing better dietary options for student athletes include improving meal variety and revitalizing the meal service currently provided to athletes traveling to events. Perna is particularly excited about a salad bar in Blanch that will feature a sauté-your-own-protein option, with a variety of choices for vegetarians, vegans and meat-eaters. 

“The new community center will, of course, still offer some of your typical greasy college dining hall foods, but the central focus is health and wellbeing across the student population,” Perna said. “We’re even exploring the option of having a make-your-own fruit and vegetable juice station, as well as an infused water station.” 

Outside of the day-to-day dining situation, Perna is overhauling the types of meals that the College sends with their athletes to away games. He would like to provide bento-box style lunches that incorporate grain options with a variety of vegetables and proteins for teams to choose from in order to create a balanced meal. The on-campus bakery is also working on recipes for healthy treats such as energy balls, homemade granola, granola bars and other sweet choices that will still serve as fuel for the various sports teams. With all of these new options, Perna also emphasized that the extended hours of operation in the new SuperBlanch will make it much easier for athletes to fit in meals around their busy academic and athletic schedules. 

Many student athletes are looking forward to the evolution of Mount Holyoke Dining Services. “It’s so nice that the dining halls open early for us on horse show mornings, and I’m very excited that the community center will have extended hours so that dinner will be available after later practices and meetings,” said Sarah Etzel ’20, a member of the equestrian team and the club dressage team. “I’ve also been so impressed by the food that we are sent to horse shows with.” 

Charlotte Angier ’21, a rower, is also pleased with the provisions for athletes. “So far, I have only been to one regatta,” she said, “but the whole team was happy with the meals that we were supplied with.” Perna is using this feedback with the hope that student athletes will be well-fueled and well-fed.