The University of Connecticut’s Storrs campus bakery produces all the baked goods for the campus’s dining halls, coffee shops and special events as well as goods for several regional campuses, but most students don’t even know it exists.
Employing 22 full-time bakers and 10 student workers, the bakery produces thousands of muffins, cookies and other baked goods per week. Beginning each day at 3:30 a.m., the bakery works hard to meet the demands of UConn’s campus. Eric Merkle, bakery manager, is confident that they can always succeed, but the challenge can sometimes be major. Merkle cited freshman move-in as a particular example.
“On any given day, we make about 500 cookies,” Merkle said. “We can do about a thousand in a day, but it’s really tough. We had about three days to make the ten thousand for move-in, so all other production had to stop.”
In addition, the bakery is constantly reflecting upon the needs of the student body and how it can meet them, said Merkle. The bakery tries to create products that fit the desires of every student on campus, including those with dietary restrictions.
“We’re increasing vegan options,” Merkle said. “A lot of things are already vegan, and students may not even know it. Going forward, there’s a call for more vegan stuff and a bit less sugar in things.”
The bakery’s largest claim to fame is its gluten-free department, the first of its kind for a university or college in the United States. Opened in 2015, the gluten-free bakery continues to produce thousands of freshly made gluten-free goods to UConn students. Demand for gluten-free products has been slowly increasing over the years, but Merkle explained that the department is already working at its max.
“The gluten-free bakery is about as big as it can get right now until we build a new commissary,” Merkle said. “When that day comes, the gluten-free bakery will move into the new commissary. Right now, we can’t get much more out of there.”
Thomas Alvarez is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.