IHC questions Bon Appétit bins

Laura Niman

Every weekday at 5 p.m. a Bon Appétit truck delivers bins full of food to 10 houses on Whitman’s campus. These are 10 of the 11 houses that comprise Whitman’s Interest House Community (IHC).

On weekdays, residents of these houses have “house dinners.” But instead of going to the dining hall as a group, Bon Appétit brings their food to them.

For the food service workers, prepping the bins for delivery begins at 2:30 p.m.

“There’s 20 bins that need to be logically delivered in a period of time so that it’s still hot,” said Prentiss Dining Hall Manager Susan Todhunter.

“The fact that people have to drive a truck around and waste gas every single day to deliver food to houses that are so close to Prentiss seems totally nonsensical to me,” said sophomore IHC resident Danny Kaplan. “It just seems like a really wasteful system.”

Todhunter also acknowledged environmental concerns related to the packaging of food in small, disposable containers. But the reusable containers that Bon Appétit uses often don’t get returned.

The IHC and Bon Appétit have been working together to reduce the environmental impact of the bin system. For example, Todhunter has offered to send larger containers of peanut butter to houses that would last a month, rather than a week.

“It’s so nice to have the support of Bon Appétit in terms of working with students and wanting to find ways to make the system even better,” said IHC Resident Director Evan Carman.

Both Carman and Todhunter feel that the biggest advantage of the bin system is the sense of community it fosters in each house.

“It offers us a chance to have family-style dinners in the IHC, and that sort of tight-knit community is something that we pride ourselves on,” said Carman.

“The college has always been very committed to having the program because of the benefits and the camaraderie that it fosters,” said Todhunter.

However, the bin system does not necessarily ensure that Interest Houses are always eating together.

“I feel like students are busier than they used to be,” said Todhunter, who acknowledges that residents often don’t eat dinner together as a result of conflicting classes or other activities.

According to Kaplan, the bin system is not necessary for house dinners. Since the second week of the school year, he has marked on the bin order form that he will not be attending dinner. Then, every night, he walks to Prentiss to get his food and brings it back to his house.

“I still always participate in the house dinner,” said Kaplan, who argues that housemates should be able to build relationships just by living together.

However, Philip Lundquist, a past resident and RA of the Fine Arts House, thinks that eating dinner as a house is an important component of house dynamics.

“Even though you’re in a house with a small number of people, it’s still very easy to spend most of your time in your room,” said Lundquist. “There’s something about breaking bread with people that helps you get to know them a lot better.”

One interest house, the Community Service House, is not on the bin system. Residents of this house shop for their own food and prepare meals together four times a week.

“I feel very strongly that Bon Appétit should be  able to provide for the IHC residents raw ingredients so we can cook  our own meals and not just the food they already prepare,” said IHC resident David Abramovitz in an e-mail.

But Kaplan argues that more than minor changes need to be made to this system. For him, it is something that needs to be completely restructured.

“It’s just a lot of extra work to stack the bins and Bon Appétit is putting in all this work for something that students feel ambivalent about at best,” said Kaplan. “I think it’s something that absolutely must be adjusted and must be changed.”