Chartwells Higher Education Launches "First Year Eats" Program to Enhance College Experience


In a bid to revolutionize the on-campus experience for first-year college students, Chartwells Higher Education has introduced "First Year Eats." This innovative program, tailored specifically for freshmen, seeks to create a transformative and inclusive environment, fostering connections that extend beyond the dining hall. Chartwells, a leader in contract foodservice management, aims to address the holistic needs of students by incorporating social, academic, and personal aspects into the college journey.

Chartwells Higher Education Launches
(Photo : UNSPLASH / CDC)

Understanding the Student Experience: The Foundation of First Year Eats

A recent survey conducted by Chartwells revealed that 62% of students believe that dining plays a crucial role in enabling them to spend more time with friends. Leveraging this insight, "First Year Eats" focuses on the pivotal first-year experience, recognizing the challenges and adjustments that students face as they embark on their college journey. Lisa McEuen, CEO of Chartwells Higher Education, emphasizes the program's broader goals, stating, "We strive to not only meet the culinary needs of students but also their academic and social needs."

The program aims to alleviate the stress and uncertainty that often accompany the transition to college life. Through engaging events and strategic initiatives, "First Year Eats" seeks to empower first-year and first-generation students to thrive academically, socially, and personally. The multifaceted approach acknowledges that a positive college experience extends beyond the classroom.

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Components of "First Year Eats": Nurturing Holistic Growth

The program comprises several components designed to create a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere:

1. Monthly Activations

"First Year Eats" introduces monthly exclusive events, such as "Mix & Mingle," to connect first-year students with each other and the campus community. These events provide opportunities for socialization, engagement, and interaction with dining team members or campus groups. Examples include innovative initiatives like a Coffee Walk and Talk at Wichita State University, fostering intimate connections among students.

2. Partnerships

Collaborative efforts between Chartwells and campus units are encouraged to enhance student support and well-being. The program acknowledges the importance of partnerships by citing instances like Florida Fresh Dining at the University of Florida working with the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars Program to engage first-generation students. These collaborations help students learn more about campus resources and dining options.

3. Customized Plans

Recognizing the unique needs of each campus, "First Year Eats" allows for customized plans. For example, George Washington University implemented a themed meal series incorporating international cultural elements, creating a distinctive dining experience. This customization ensures that the program aligns with the specific requirements and preferences of the student body.

4. Year Two and Beyond

The program doesn't end with the first year; instead, schools aim to work with students to become ambassadors in their second year. This continuity ensures that the positive impact of "First Year Eats" extends beyond the initial transitional period.

Assessing Impact and Future Expansion

Schools implementing "First Year Eats" are committed to conducting regular surveys throughout the year to evaluate the program's impact and gather feedback for continual enhancements. Currently available at 11 schools, the program is poised for further expansion in the coming year, reflecting the positive response and the growing recognition of its significance in enhancing the college experience.

"First Year Eats" stands as a testament to Chartwells Higher Education's commitment to redefining the on-campus dining experience and fostering a sense of community that transcends traditional boundaries. As students continue to navigate the complexities of college life, initiatives like these play a pivotal role in shaping a positive and inclusive campus environment.

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