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Campus Successes – CSU East Bay

It Takes a Village: Elevating Collaboration with Campus Dining

California State University, East Bay has a student population of approximately 16,000, and of those, an estimated 10,944 are SNAP-Ed eligible (qualifying by income). Student food insecurity is estimated to be 50.1 percent.

Wellness Services desired a partnership with Pioneer Dining, the on-campus dining facility, to establish a shared commitment to nutrition and address the food insecurity of
Cal State East Bay students. Chartwells, a food service organization, was awarded the food service provider contract for the campus in summer 2019. Wellness Services made a connection with Chartwells early in their campus transition to establish shared values and language for nutrition education, access to food for the campus, and collaboration on programming efforts.

The Teaching Kitchen classes were initiated through the CalFresh Healthy Living (CFHL) opportunity. The campus previously held cooking classes prior to CFHL funding, but they did not follow any curriculum, recipe format, and were often only attended by university employees. The campus now has an executive chef, catering chef, and Director of Marketing & Guest Experience as partners with Wellness Services in planning, implementing, and evaluating the success of their Teaching Kitchen classes.

They have been able to use the dining commons space to hold sessions and the chefs co-facilitate the workshops. They have provided cutting boards, knives, safety gloves, bowls, and other food prep items for participants to use. They order and prepare the recipe ingredients prior to the session occurring. Featured recipes include no-tuna poke, one mug omelet, turkey tacos, and zesty Asian chicken salad. Utilizing additional department funding, the campus was able to provide participants with ingredient boxes to practice preparing the recipes at home. The cooking classes were recorded and posted to their YouTube Channel for at-home instruction and to use in future workshop presentations.

Harvest of the Month and Healthy Snack Day have been a great collaboration to promote seasonal produce to the campus as well as engage the catering chef for pioneer dining. In September the campus promoted root vegetables. The conversation about baby carrots ended with the catering chef exclaiming “can I use jicama?!?!” and we had a spread of parsnips, carrots, and jicama for our students to enjoy. These events culminated in staff wearing root vegetable socks and carrot earrings. Chartwells launched a campaign during Earth Week called JoyFUL that featured sustainability through plant-based diets. Wellness Services collaborated in a “GreatFUL partnership” through a series of outreach tables and shared messaging about the powerFUL benefits of fruits and vegetables, home cooking, and reducing food waste. This partnership resulted in the reimplementation of their campus Farmers Market which brings together campus departments and local businesses to promote celebration of food. The last Farmers Market featured fresh produce, a local cheesecake maker, local honey producer, local succulent distributor, and lots of games and activities. The CFHL funding has provided an opportunity to move beyond education and programming collaboration to address food insecurity through sustainable practices. A portion of the funding was used to purchase a blast chiller, which was an allowable cost, for Pioneer Dining. This unit will be placed in the University Union to safely preserve unused food that will then be distributed through the Food Pantry. This is an exciting opportunity for both departments as it supports Pioneer Dining’s commitment to sustainability and provides ready-meals to students.

The partnership Pioneer Dining has been critical to the success of our CFHL implementation. The partnership with the chefs, usage of their food prep space, and holding workshops in the dining commons elevated the Teaching Kitchen to the level of success it is today. The campus would not have been able to provide the same quality of event without their partnership. This perspective is not only held by their full-time staff coordinating the event but also by the student participants. Students have shared the that they feel more confident in their skills and ability to create healthy meals after the workshops.

“Our collaboration with Pioneer Dining is so strong! We have been tabling with them on a weekly basis and cross promoting services with social media outreach. At this point, they are not even invoicing us for the food provided at our events. When questioned about payment their response is ‘it is OUR PARTNERSHIP!’ We have never had such a strong relationship with our food services provider in the past 17 years I’ve been on campus. It really brings a deeper level of commitment to serving our students”

Jennifer Luna

The campus perception was skeptical when Chartwells was awarded the food service provider contract. People were unsure if they would come to campus as partners and meet the needs of our students. Through the collaboration with them it has become apparent that not only are they partners but are also part of the campus community. This partnership and collaboration is growing to include co-sponsorship of other events such as HalloweenFest and Self-Care Fair.

Written by
Campus Successes – CSU East Bay

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