Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 9
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Bon Appétit losing dishes and patience

Photo Credit: Ethan Parrish

Thievery is on the rise on the Whitman College campus, with objects going missing nearly every day. The objects in question? Dishes and silverware from the dining halls.

Bon Appétit Management Company spends from seven to 10 thousand dollars a year on dishes at Whitman. The company is currently on its last set of backup dishes.

“We were completely stocked when we opened in the fall,” said Prentiss Dining Hall Manager Susan Todhunter. According to Todhunter, dishes and silverware began to disappear within the first two weeks of the semester.

The dishes are found all over campus: under bushes, on steps, in off-campus houses and even in trash cans. Many are left on the ledge of trash cans. These dishes and the ones that do make it into the trash sometimes get collected and returned by facilities services.

“The dishes disappear from the cafeteria, they are left outside and somebody else picks them up, so they do it again. It’s a system that works for them,” says Landscape Specialist and Recycling Coordinator Bob Biles. “We enable them to be socially unequipped by our being responsible.”

At Prentiss, most dishes are stolen over the weekend, which could be a result of it being the only dining hall open.

“I come back on Monday and say ‘whoa, where did everything go?'” Todhunter said.

Because the dining halls do not take inventory often, it’s hard to tell just how much gets stolen in a day.

Over four years ago, Prentiss Dining Hall offered paper dishes for people who wanted to take food out. However, students used the dishes for everything instead of exclusively for taking food out. Todhunter felt that that system was extremely wasteful. Paper dishes and cups are no longer offered in Prentiss Dining Hall.

Prentiss and other dining halls encourage the use of personal dishes for students who wish to eat elsewhere. The student handbook states that “by bringing their own plate or container, students are allowed to take their meal out of the dining hall. Plates, bowls, mugs, silverware, etc. may not be removed from the dining hall.”

Todhunter appreciates when people bring their own Tupperware. However, “we’re trying not to be a grocery store,” she said in response to students who clean out all of an item from the salad bar.

Bon Appétit is trying to find a solution to the dish theft problem. While programs like Campus Greens’s dish roundups have been tried in the past, Todhunter feels that this encourages students to take out dishes, as would designated receptacles for dish return.

“We need to make it convenient to walk out with something other than our dishes,” she said.

Currently, Bon Appétit is looking into an idea that was introduced to Whitman by Sustainability Coordinators Nat Clarke and Ari Frink, both seniors.

Over the four-day break in October, they went to an Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conference in Denver, Colo. There they saw several vendors offering green clam shells, a type of reusable meal container.

These containers are being put to use at schools such as Yale University as the alternative. As it works at Yale, each student pays for a container in their meal plan. They then are able to take one out if they need it for transporting food. However, students are unable to get a new container without returning their old one, either clean or dirty. When they return their container, students either receive a token to exchange for a new container, or an indication on their ID card saying their container was in.

Right now, the sustainability coordinators and Todhunter are working on a system that they hope would work well for Whitman. Todhunter would like to implement the system if she felt students would be receptive to it.

“This would get rid of the ambiguity of what can be taken out of the dining halls,” Clarke said.

For now, the solution is for students to be more responsible about bringing their own containers and cups or bringing back Bon Appétit dishes.

“Bring them back dirty; we can wash them,” Todhunter urges. “Just bring them back.”

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