At the April Student Government (SG) Assembly Meeting, Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives Melissa Gilliam spoke about the currently enacted dining hall pilot program that could extend dining services to Saturdays and winter and spring breaks. Administrators have been reaching out to students for their opinions on access to and quality of food on campus.
“As part of a long-standing commitment to the health and well-being of students, the University of Chicago began a Dining Hall Pilot Program this quarter to expand food access,” Gilliam shared in an e-mail to The Maroon. “Facilitated through a partnership between UChicago Dining, the Center for College Student Success (CCSS), and Student Support Services (SSS), the pilot offers eligible undergraduate and graduate students five free meals at any campus dining hall.”
This dining-hall pilot program is part of a series of initiatives to improve student access to meals on campus or through the local Hyde Park community. The best-known aspect of the program is the Saturday night meal swipes at Hutchinson Commons, which provides free meals when the dining halls are closed.
This program was developed in part by the Socioeconomic Diversity Alliance (SDA). SDA is an RSO dedicated to increasing campus inclusivity for low-income and/or first-generation students. Outgoing SDA president Christian Porras said, “The University has a responsibility to ensure that its students have access to food, and when financial limitations are compounded by this restrictive dining service model, students experience food insecurity. We’ve [SDA] received a number of student anecdotes detailing instances of not eating or eating very poorly as a result of dining hall closures.”
Porras said he approves of the pilot program to provide meals during breaks. Porras wrote, “I feel that this is an essential next step for ending food insecurity on our campus. Many students that remain on campus during breaks do so because traveling home for a short period is not affordable or practical. Why should these students not have access to meals?”
The CCSS and the SSS currently run several campus initiatives to expand food options both during school and break, including the Grocery Run, CCSS Winter Holiday Meal and Groceries, Local Grocery Credit, and the Spring Break Meal Program.
“We encourage students who would benefit from the Dining Hall Pilot Program or any of our existing food access resources to contact CCSS or SSS,” Gilliam wrote. “The UChicago D&I [Diversity and Inclusion] Studio in the Office of the Provost is gathering interviews and information about student experiences around food, and welcomes students who wish to participate.”
Kosi Achife, incoming SG Vice President and an intern for Gilliam, said there is a need for the possible expansion of UChicago’s dining-hall pilot program. “I am all for the extension of the dining program as food insecurity is an important issue across college campuses, and it especially harms low-income students,” Achife said.
“I am not involved in this program, but I wholeheartedly support it,” Achife wrote on possibilities for next year. “If students need SG’s support [for] it next year, our slate would love to help in whatever way we can.”