Usdan Marketplace will resume using plates and Eco To-Go containers beginning on the first day of Winter Session, Jan. 4, 2022. The Auxiliary Services Administration, the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) Dining Committee, and Bon Appétit organized the switch from to-go containers back to plates.
According to Bon Appétit District Manager Michael Strumpf, after two years of using disposable containers, the University has decided to return to pre-pandemic dining with reusable dishes and containers.
“This whole pandemic, nobody really had answers,” Strumpf said. “You know, we just kind of felt our way through it…. Now it’s getting to the point where things have to start going back.”
The switch back to plates is intended to cut down on waste.
“[If] things keep going well—and I hope they do—all the disposable stuff is going to disappear,” Strumpf said. “Right now we’re going through a lot more food than we should…. I hate to see the amount of food that’s getting wasted.”
When making choices about dining on campus, plans have been made with careful consideration to students’ safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Director of Auxiliary Services Michelle Myers-Brown emphasized that because of changing conditions, flexibility is necessary.
“All plans are fluid until we receive final guidance from the [University’s] Pandemic Planning team,” Myers-Brown wrote in an email to The Argus. “We rely on their guidance since they have access to the most up to date state, local and university protocols with regard to [COVID-19]. Changes can happen at any point so our decision making remains very flexible.”
Before the pandemic, the University had been using Eco To-Go since 2009. Because these systems are not new, Strumpf believes the plan to switch back is feasible. He explained that potential barriers to the plans include the possibility for changing COVID-19 restrictions and the half of the student body who never experienced dining at the University before the pandemic.
“The challenge is going to be the students who never saw it before and have become very accustomed [to] just using…disposable containers at their will,” Strumpf said. “And that’s where that’s where it’s going to get some pushback…. This year’s [first-year] class, last year’s [first-year] class, and part of the class prior to that have only known pandemic dining so there’s a lot of students on campus who’ve never seen what we really do.”
Organizers determined that the upcoming Winter Session would be the perfect testing ground for these changes because fewer students will be on campus. Additionally, WSA Senator and Dining Committee facilitator Sam Hilton ’25 explained that Bon Appétit and the University did not want plates to return until dining was moved mostly indoors.
“They were against bringing back plates before the tents came down,” Hilton said. “Their logic was [that] if the tents were up then…they either have to have an attendant out there who makes sure people don’t leave with the plates, or they just have to hope that people don’t take the plates or break them or just leave them out in the weather—things like that. And so that’s part of the reason why they waited so long to bring [plates] back.”
There will be some differences between this winter’s Eco To-Go system and the one used in previous years. Before the pandemic, students received keychains that they would then exchange for a container. This winter, the to-go boxes will have QR codes that students can scan to check them in and out. James Wilson ’17 and Fernando Lira ’17, two recent graduates from the University, will manage the QR codes through an app they created.
“These two gentlemen have a very good understanding of the frustrations we had using the Eco To-Go program,” Strumpf said. “With people losing their containers, throwing them out…we go through way too many containers. But this should help things, make it a lot easier for the students.”
Though plans are always subject to change depending on COVID-19, Hilton is optimistic about next semester.
“Bon App[étit], Usdan Auxiliary Services, and the WSA have all been working really hard together to try and bring back normalcy in dining while also staying safe,” Hilton said. “Hopefully if nothing else [worsens] with COVID-19, we’ll see more of a return to normal next semester.”
Sam Hilton is a Staff Writer for The Argus.
Kat Struhar can be reached at email@example.com.