Dining Services on the go

Offers reusable containers, convenient to-go meals

Campus dining options at Washington University in St. Louis are becoming more sustainable and convenient.

Dining Services debuted an eco-friendly to-go box program in January that includes both a compostable to-go box and a redesigned reusable box. The compostable to-go box also can be recycled if there is minimal food left in it.

Dining Services, which works in partnership with Bon Appétit Management Company, also recently began offering take-home heat-and-eat meals for four, aimed at busy campus faculty and staff members.

Eco To-Go

While Dining Services had offered since 2008-09 a reusable to-go box that people could take home, wash and bring back, David Murphy, general manager of Bon Appétit, says the new to-go options are an improvement.

They should encourage diners to use fewer paper products, saving the program money while also benefiting the environment. Plus, he says, the new containers fit more easily in backpacks and are better for storing hot foods.

The Eco To-Go containers are available at the Danforth University Center, the Village and the South 40, including the Bear’s Den. They will expand to other campus eateries over time, Murphy says.

Here’s how it works:

A customer orders a meal and requests an Eco To-Go box. There is a $5 charge at the outset to cover the cost of the container and a key chain token.

When they’re finished eating, customers turn in their box to a cashier and receive a token. Dining Services washes the box, which Murphy says helps ensure the highest level of food safety.

Diners present the token next time to get another Eco To-Go box, and the cycle repeats. Customers get a 10-cent discount on their meal each time they use the token.

Those who have the older to-go box, which is being phased out, can turn it in for a new one at no charge, he says.

Also new this semester, Murphy says, is that Dining Services has moved to compostable paper to-go containers, a step up from materials that simply could be recycled.

Other universities have worked to incorporate more environmentally friendly choices into campus dining, but Murphy says few are the size of WUSTL or have embraced the concept on the same scale.

“We’re a to-go-driven campus,” Murphy says. “We know to-go is something people really not only want, but need.”

Sitting down and using an actual plate is still the greenest option, but Murphy says campus dining officials realize that more and more, students, faculty and staff require meals to go.

Dinner to go

Dining Services also has a new initiative geared at faculty and staff members: People can order, a few days ahead of time, a prepared dinner for four and pick it up from Dining Services on Friday.

The meal costs about $25 and the menu changes each week. The concept is similar to what large grocery chains do, offering a fried chicken meal, for example, or pre-ordered Thanksgiving dinner in a box, complete with all the sides.

Dining Services wanted to provide the WUSTL community with a convenient, made-from-scratch option.

Murphy says conversations with those who work in and near the Danforth University Center indicated a demand for to-go meals, and his office reviewed what other schools, including Wheaton College, have done.

So far, the response has been positive, he says, but Bon Appétit is open to suggestions for improvement. For example, it’s studying whether Friday is the best pickup day, or if another would work better for more people.

Those interested in ordering the dinners-to-go can subscribe and receive a weekly email with the menu and ordering details, Murphy says.