When freshmen first move to campus, one of their first questions is, “Where should we eat?”
For the first few weeks of this semester at GW, that question is harder to answer than normal: Foggy Bottom’s only dining hall shut its doors at the end of last semester, and none of the new restaurants in District House have opened. As students are left without a central dining location, officials have declined to say when they can expect to dine in District House.
In the spring, officials announced that GW would transition to an open dining plan, meaning that students would no longer be required to spend a certain amount of money at an on-campus dining hall but could use those funds at partnering grocery stores and restaurants in the area. J Street, the Foggy Bottom campus’s dining hall, closed, and officials said new vendors opening in the recently completed District House would help fill the void.
But representatives from three of the vendors said their locations on the building’s ground floor won’t be opening for another two to three months. Only Peet’s Coffee & Tea is expected is open in the next two to three weeks. In the meantime, GW is offering meals in District House on weekdays during lunch hours on a first-come, first-serve basis.
A grab-and-go convenience store will also open later in September on the Marvin Center’s lower level.
Alicia Knight, senior associate vice president for operations, said students are encouraged to take advantage of the lunches at District House, the Pelham Commons dining hall on the Mount Vernon Campus and GWorld dining partners around the area during this transitional phase.
“We have worked diligently throughout the past year to secure added on-campus dining options for students, and we continue to work closely with our new dining partners so that they may open as soon as possible,” Knight said.
University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt said officials did not have additional details on when those vendors will open.
Student Association President Erika Feinman said officials will monitor the District House lunches to determine how many meals students need to adjust how many to order.
Meeting health standards and obtaining permits have created extra obstacles for vendors, Feinman added.
“Opening District House vendors has been put behind because D.C. city planning permits and health inspections have taken longer than officials expected,” Feinman said. “It is just the nature of a business opening anywhere, and I wouldn’t necessarily place this as a fault of the University.”
SA Executive Vice President Thomas Falcigno said that once the District House vendors open, they will each offer reduced-price meals to GW students, costing about $7 for each meal purchased with a GWorld card.
Falcigno added that SA representatives have been talking with administrators in the Division of Operations about when dining options would open.
“We are hoping that the vendors will open soon, and we are in contact with the Division of Operations regarding this matter,” Falcigno said.
The lack of on-campus vendors is particularly noticeable on a campus without a central dining hall — GW is the only one of its peer universities to not offer this to students.
Henry Klapper, the president of the Progressive Student Union and a former Hatchet reporter, said eliminating the dining hall highlights food insecurity issues on campus and can prevent incoming freshmen from connecting with their peers in community dining spaces.
“It is unacceptable for a University with so many undergraduates in the middle of the city that there is no constant available option for students,” Klapper said.
A student-run food pantry will open in District House next month, allowing for students to anonymously request food donations.
This article appeared in the September 6, 2016 issue of the Hatchet.