Fourth meal deemed likely for next year

The huge success of the Fourth Meal pilot program has led Administrators to consider including the program in next year’s dining plan.

By Rebecca Guterman

The success of the Fourth Meal pilot has made the program’s implementation next year increasingly likely, though the University’s Global Dining Initiative has yet to settle on a replacement for its current food vendor.

According to Campus Dining Advisory Board (CDAB) head Gabriel Panek, the most likely scenario for next year would be a Fourth Meal program that begins third week of the quarter, running Monday through Thursday and alternating between South Campus and Pierce dining halls each week. Panek also said that this plan is the most feasible, in terms of cost.

Campus dining will negotiate with Aramark, Sodexo, or Bon Appetit, depending on which provider is chosen for next year, according to Panek, though he sees no reason late-night dining could not become a campus tradition.

Panek said that the additional costs of Fourth Meal will be reduced by the fact that the program is replacing late-night dining at Hutch Commons.

The offerings of the Fourth Meal program came under some scrutiny by students who asked for healthier options than those available during the pilot, according to Panek. The pilot included a fruit bar, but also waffles, sausage patties, and chili-cheese dogs.

He does not know exactly how Campus Dining would bring healthier options to the table, but he said he intends to address the issue.

Director of Operations and Communications for Campus Dining Richard Mason said that the program will have to balance the reality of cost concerns, which will prevent dining halls from keeping all of their stations open with healthier food.

“Fresh fruit and vegetables are among some of the highest cost foods on their own, and also some of the most labor-intensive,” Mason said. “It would be difficult to have the full-blown offerings without some sort of significant change [in cost].”

The pilot, hosted in South Campus during seventh week and in Pierce during eighth week, attracted more students than expected, but Mason was careful not to view the high turnout as a guarantee of similar results in the future, explaining that attendance will likely come down once the program becomes a staple of campus dining.

During the South Campus pilot, 1046 people turned out for opening night (that week’s highest), but that number fell to 582 by the end of the week. According to surveys collected during the pilot, 80 percent of attendees were coming from their residence halls, and 79 percent had their house tables in South.

Pierce Dining Hall, which has 373 seats to South’s 550, saw a similar trend, with 768 students turning out on Tuesday but only 484 showing up for Friday. In a given week, Pierce serves as many as 400 for weeknight dinners and around 250 for weekday breakfasts, according to Mason.

The surveys revealed that about 50 percent of Pierce attendees were coming directly from their residence hall, with significant percentages also coming from the Regenstein Library and Ratner Athletic Center.

Attendees at the Pierce pilot hailed from a more diverse range of residence halls than at South, possibly because, Mason speculated, fewer students have their house tables there. Of the students who attended the Pierce pilot, 42 percent had their house tables at Bartlett Dining Hall, 32 percent at South, and 26 percent at Pierce.

Mason again stressed Fourth Meal’s social atmosphere, citing it as a major success of the program. “People were interacting with each other,” he said. “It wasn’t a study hall.”