By Wynn McDonald
Two weeks ago, I found myself in a challenging situation. It was early Thursday afternoon, and I was hurrying across campus, trying to get something to eat before my long day of classes began. I had 10 minutes until my first class, and I was starving—but I had no flex dollars to spend on food. What could I do?
Matters became further complicated when I realized that this was the day of the annual Thanksgiving lunch in our cafeteria, University Dining Hall (UDH). It was a meal I always looked forward to, but now I was worried I would miss it altogether.
I did the only logical thing I could in the situation: I ran into UDH, filled my plate, stuffed my face, and left just in time to roll into my class right as the lecture began.
As I sat there stressfully opening my notebook, and brushing some stray stuffing off my shirt, it occurred to me—couldn’t this all have been avoided with a simple to-go box?
“In between classes, it’s really hard to come here and sit down for a meal,” junior Colleen Begley said. “I would use a to-go option all the time.”
I approached Bellarmine Student Affairs about this idea and found that creative uses for meal swipes is a hot topic of discussion already.
“Any way to get students more options is better,” SGA Food Services Chair Katrina Powell said. “A lot of people [have] night classes and classes that go right through dinner time, so what do they do?”
Dean of Students Dr. Sean McGreevey expressed similar concerns, stressing the importance of new options in the school’s negotiations with current food services provider Sodexo after the current contract between the two expires in the spring.
“Students need more flexibility with their meal swipe,” McGreevey said. “That is primary in our discussions about how we’re going to move forward.”
However, he said that to-go options in the dining hall have not been brought up until now.
“That is not something that we have explored,” McGreevey said.
This issue could be of particular interest to students who live off-campus, as the commuter schedule often makes on-campus dining difficult. In addition to time constraints, Sodexo’s website lists the Bellarmine commuter meal plan consisting of 30 meal swipes and just $50 in flex per semester. Adding to-go options in UDH would allow on-the-run students to make use of those swipes and still get a home-cooked meal that fits with their schedule.
“I usually eat [in UDH] about one to two days a week, and I usually get the same stuff, [so] take-out could be interesting… from a commuter standpoint,” junior Jacob Gagel said.
Begley said, “I want to have the opportunity to come to UDH and have a home-cooked meal, but not feel the pressure to sit down and indulge in the environment. I want to be able to be on the go, but not be eating packaged snacks all the time.”
To find out about the feasibility of this idea, I reached out to Bellarmine’s on-campus Sodexo representatives. I was informed that former Food Services Director Louis Gornick is no longer an employee there, and Interim Director Mueen Patankar said that Sodexo was not available for comment.
According to McGreevey, Gornick left the to pursue other opportunities closer to his home in Omaha, Nebraska.
Despite this, Powell said she is confident that the addition of carry-out is a possibility, depending mainly on logistics.
“If we could get it to where you just have another swipe [for carry-out], I think that would be fine,” Powell said.
Based off these conversations, my own conclusion is that take-out options in UDH are not only reasonable but would be a welcome addition to campus dining options. If Bellarmine and Sodexo are truly committed to providing students with greater flexibility, then there’s no time to waste—the plate is getting cold.