GW Dining is debuting a new way to help students plan their meals.
Student ambassadors for GW Dining piloted an event called “Supermarket Sundays” for the first time this week, giving students a tour of Whole Foods and providing them with ideas for meals to cook during the week. Officials said the idea for the event came from student feedback during GW Dining events, where students expressed interest in learning about cheaper and healthier meal options.
Dining representatives held their first event Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Whole Foods on 22nd and I streets. The ambassadors set up a table in front of the grocery store where students could take shopping lists of convenient foods, like soup or breakfast cereals, to keep in their residence hall rooms.
About 10 students attended the event, where they also had the option of spending $40 to get $10 back on their GWorld cards. Students could RSVP to the event on Facebook or on the dining website.
Alicia Knight, the senior associate vice president of operations, said the program is part of GW Dining’s effort to expand the dining representative program, which started last academic year and selects students to promote different diets, like kosher or vegetarian, on social media and through University events.
She said students “suggested a need for more advice and support on how to easily prepare meals in their rooms or communal kitchens” during events that dining representatives hosted over the past academic year. Officials have also discussed the initiative with members of the Residence Hall Association to plan the event, she said.
“With this student input, GW Dining decided to pilot this program to gauge if there is sufficient interest to host additional events,” Knight said in an email.
She said after the first shopping session at Whole Foods Sunday, officials will evaluate the participation and interest to decide if the event should continue and how often.
Knight said officials want to continue planning more programming geared toward shopping, budgeting and meal preparation to ensure students have the resources to “fulfill their dining needs with the GW Dining program.” GW Dining also created discounts for students at venues like Soupergirl and Healthy Fresh Meals – a meal delivery service that was added to GWorld in July.
Senior Genevieve Cifelli, the dining coordinator for representatives who organized Supermarket Sundays, said she coordinated with Whole Foods over the summer to plan the event and choose a date.
Cifelli said the event, where a Whole Foods employee provided tours for students to learn “tips and tricks” for finding cheaper foods, is a way to incentivize freshmen to grocery shop for items they can keep in their residence halls, even if they don’t have a kitchen.
“For students, it’s their first time on their own,” she said of freshmen. “They might not know what is a good staple to get for their dorm, whether they have a community kitchen or a kitchen in their room.”
Cifelli said she will likely continue hosting Supermarket Sundays because she considered the event a “success.”
Therese Colucci, the catering liason at Whole Foods who worked on the event, said she gave about three tours for students Sunday and offered pointers about how to purchase Whole Foods brand items, which are often cheaper than name brands, and use an Amazon Prime membership to receive 10 percent discounts.
“There’s a misconception that Whole Foods is so expensive, but really, we’re not any more expensive than any other grocery store if you learn to shop correctly,” Colucci said.
Colucci said the store is also starting a monthly raffle for students who spend $15 or more to drop their receipt in a bin, where they can enter to win a $100, $50 or $20 gift card. She said the raffle will begin once dining representatives determine where the bin will be located on campus.
RHA President SJ Matthews, who attended Supermarket Sundays, said the event gives students the resources to know there are “affordable, available and healthy options” on a campus largely surrounded by fast food restaurants.
In response to student feedback about utilizing stores other than fast food restaurants, Matthews said the RHA is also hosting a cooking class in the basement of Thurston Hall Thursday, where students can learn about different recipes from dining representatives.
“I think it’s needed to make sure people are aware there are healthy options,” she said. “I think on this campus, we’re all really busy students so finding time to cook healthy meals is super hard.”