By Kourtney Husnick
Cleveland State University’s Viking Marketplace rolled out a new pilot program for students with meal plans this semester to take their meals on the go.
In response to a One Thing Campaign request, Cleveland State President Harlan Sands’ suggestion program for students, faculty and staff to voice what they believe would make the university better, CSU Dining began testing the use of reusable eco-containers in the buffet-style dining hall.
The request, made by sophomore math and communications major, Kayla Ball, was placed in November.
“I was just hoping for some sort of container to be put in place so I would be able to go in, take out a sandwich or something and then leave because before this whole pilot program came about, you go in there, you eat, you leave,” Ball said. “You can’t take anything out of there, and sometimes, I go to class and I don’t have the 10 minutes that it takes to eat a meal in there.”
By December, the conversation started to give students an option of to-go containers for the dining hall. In that process, Ball said Clare Rahm, associate vice president of campus support services, helped make her request a reality.
“We met for coffee once, and since then, she’s done all the work for it,” Ball said.
The reusable containers were also Rahm’s idea, according to Ball. Having a reusable option fit into Cleveland State’s sustainability efforts, Ball explained.
On CSU Dining’s end, a system like this has always been something they’ve looked at, but they felt like it wasn’t something that would work here, according to Chris Hall, CSU Dining’s marketing and communications manager.
The pilot program has a limit of 150 students who can be enrolled, and, at last count, there are 78 students currently participating.
Once enrolled, students are required to provide a $10 cash-only deposit for their first eco-container, which can then be returned for a clean container, a token to pick up a container later on or a return of their deposit. A normal meal swipe is taken with each entry as well.
Some details in the program have already changed. Originally, details listed a limit of three to-go meals per week, but that limit has since been lifted for weekdays. Weekends are not eligible for the to-go containers, according to Hall.
“The students who are using it absolutely love it,” Hall said. “We’re surprised more students don’t take advantage of it.”
Hall also explained that there are some students who enrolled in the program and have yet to utilize it. A reminder email went out to them Tuesday, Feb. 19, to ensure that those students knew how to get their to-go box.
One registered student, however, was unaware that she was enrolled in the program until the reminder email came out. Freshman Arianna Killing enrolled when the first email about the program was sent out before winter break ended, but she did not receive any confirmation of being enrolled or instructions until Tuesday’s reminder email went out.
“The email didn’t actually say ‘FYI, you’re part of the program,’” Killing said, about the first acknowledgement she received back about her enrollment in the program. “It was a secondary email saying I haven’t used the program and should, since I’m a part of it.”
Being a new service for CSU Dining, Hall explained that there were likely going to be some kinks and that their method of confirmation is something that could grow.
“This is a pilot program,” Hall said. “And with any pilot program, there are bound to be some missteps.”
The reminder email seems to have helped students who were unaware that their enrollment was accepted.
“After the email saying I need to use the program, I tried looking for an initial email saying that I was part of the program and never found one,” Killing said. “I was surprised to see all the signs advertising the program when I got back to school when I haven’t even heard back from them.”
While Ball and Killing were both unaware of the boxed meal program that allows students to submit a form and pick up a pre-prepared meal from the dining hall for the cost of one meal swipe, that program will also continue. The to-go program exists simultaneously with the boxed meal program that had already been in place, and at least two to three boxed meals are still picked up each day, according to Hall.
Additionally, CSU Dining has begun experimenting with other programs, including hosting local Cleveland items like Dante Boccuzzi’s pizza in the dining hall like they did on Wednesday, Feb. 20. That idea came up through casual conversation as CSU Dining’s staff became more familiar with Boccuzzi as regulars at his restaurant.
“We expect to bring him back very soon,” Hall said.