Dining reps ramp up social media engagement during pandemic

Media Credit: Photo Illustration by Arielle Bader | Assistant Photo Editor

As COVID-19 displaces thousands of students from campus, student dining representatives are raising awareness of easy-to-make recipes over social media.

GW Dining student representatives are shifting their engagement entirely to social media during remote instruction.

Dining representatives said they have doubled down on GW Dining’s social media usage with recipes, tips and resources for healthy food options around campus. The students said they hope their engagement helps students struggling to find affordable takeout options or easy recipes to cook as the pandemic continues to keep people homebound.

University spokesperson Crystal Nosal said the student representatives are “active members” of GW Dining, and officials maintain communication with them via WebEx, emails and phone calls. She said the students meet “regularly” with staff members to discuss ideas for students’ dining options during the pandemic.

“The University dining program remains committed to serving all students nutritious meals during the pandemic, including those that follow specific diets,” Nosal said in an email. “Students are encouraged to take advantage of the Dining program’s resources, including contacting GW Dining representatives, visiting the Dining website or getting in touch with Dining staff members directly.”

Peyton Wilson, the Mount Vernon Campus’ student representative, said her role before the pandemic still involved social media but also included organizing in-person activities on the Vern, like cooking classes and contests.

While the Vern remains shut down, Wilson said she’s focused on cooking and posting healthy recipes on Instagram, which she focused on Southern meals like biscuits, cornbread and sweet potatoes. She said she hopes her Instagram posts motivate students to cook their own meals at home, adding that preparing food can serve as a form of self-care during the pandemic.

With at least 35 GWorld vendors closed due to the pandemic’s financial impacts, including Pelham Commons on the Vern, many students are grocery shopping and cooking their own food, she said. Wilson said she hopes posting recipes and tips on her Instagram will make it easier for students to find and make healthy food options.

Of the GWorld dining options that remain, Wilson said she recommends Beefsteak and Surfside as “filling” and “affordable.” To find other affordable options, she suggests turning to Grubhub, from which students can buy food with no delivery fee.

Jess Squires, the student representative for sustainable dining, said the pandemic has forced her to brainstorm new ways to make takeout packaging more sustainable. Squires, who joined the representative program during the pandemic, said she recommends students prioritize cooking at home or use recyclable utensils and bags when eating out.

“I’ve definitely been trying to focus more on just suggesting meals and services that are available to students, not only in Foggy Bottom but all over the country and the world, so that’s obviously a bit more home-cooking than takeout,” she said. “Dining in person is not really an option right now, which is too bad because that’s so much more sustainable than takeout.”

Squires said she has recently focused on posting sustainable meal suggestions and food services that are available to students on and off campus on Instagram. She said her page is focused on home cooking instead of takeout.

When students don’t have time to cook their own meals, she said asking restaurants to leave out utensils and napkins in an order could make takeout more sustainable. She said she is currently working to figure out which GW Dining partners have the most sustainable packaging, a new focus of hers since the pandemic started.

Squires said she also recommends that students on campus look into the community-supported agriculture program with the GroW Garden. She said purchasing food from local farmers who are part of the program is a sustainable way to buy groceries during the pandemic.

The Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market is also still open for students to purchase local, in-season produce, Squires said. She said students can still compost their food waste there, in addition to the GW compost bin set up in Kogan Plaza every Friday.

Jess Flagg, the vegan and vegetarian student representative, said she hopes to update students on events that provide discounted or free food options. She said since the pandemic sent students home, she’s relied on her Instagram account to host virtual cooking classes, post recipes and recommend restaurants near campus.

Flagg said some of her responsibilities as the vegan and vegetarian dining representative include leading cooking classes, coordinating dining events and communicating with students who want to voice issues related to vegan and vegetarian diet availability. She added that students living in Foggy Bottom can find vegan and vegetarian options at grocery stores like Whole Foods and Safeway.

Flagg said students living at home should experiment cooking new recipes and check out their local restaurants for vegan and vegetarian options.

“You can almost always find something vegetarian, and a lot of restaurants have vegan options or options that you can change a little to make vegan,” Flagg said in an interview.

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