Dining director open forums begin


Iowa State Daily

Hawthorn serves breakfast pizza, sandwiches and pastries.

Jake Dalbey

The first candidate for the ISU Dining director position visited campus Thursday to speak to students about the future of the university’s dining centers.

Amanda Steiner was the first candidate to speak on campus to a 20-member audience at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Memorial Union, marking the beginning of the ISU Dining director open forums that will take place throughout the next couple of weeks.

Steiner began her presentation with an immediate focus on health trends, whole foods and genetically modified, organism-free items available in the dining centers.

“There have been trends toward vegetarianism and veganism, but there’s also veggie-centric, which means the vegetable is the center of the plate but there can be meat in the dish,” Steiner said.

Being veggie-centric as well as making the food students eat more personable is part of an effort for Steiner to reach the Generation Z students. Generation Z students are post-millennials, and students focused more on lifestyle-based food options, fast service and food that creates a more social atmosphere.

“Meal plans need to move toward Generation Z,” Steiner said. “Food is about the experience and how it makes us feel. This can be done through a student’s signature item and more flexible options.”

Restructuring meal plans was a primary talking point for Steiner’s presentation. Stemming from her experience at Sodexo Campus Services and North Carolina A&T State University, Steiner emphasized fast and convenient delivery options as a future initiative.

Explored options included designated pickup locations for food, online ordering and bringing the dining hall experience to large events around campus. These proposals also attempt to help free students from what Steiner sees as a strict meal plan layout.

“Every year, we should be re-evaluating our meal plans and adapting them every four years,” she said. “We need to break down strict meal plan rules and regulations, making more flexible options for students.”

Steiner mentioned universities such as Virginia Tech as examples of schools where meal plans have been completely axed in favor of an all-dining dollars program. A program such as this one could distribute students across all of the dining options on campus.

The presentation concluded with Steiner answering questions about motivations for her job, the possibility of creating a preventive services manager in ISU Dining and creating a larger presence on social media.

“To me, the four-year experience of building student relations is exciting and why I’m passionate about dining services,” Steiner said. “It’s neat to see the places they go even if I don’t have a direct influence on them.”

The candidate open forums will resume Friday when another candidate, Gayle Hanson, visits campus. Other candidates Mohamed Ali and John Gaughan will speak Thursday and Friday next week.