A new Duke Dining program introduced Monday seeks to provide affordable lunch options across campus.
Daily Devil Deals ensures that every vendor on Duke’s campus offers a lunch option for $5 or less, and seeks to address the inaccessibility and cost of West Campus dining for first-year and low socioeconomic students. Duke Dining has posted a full list online of the deals from each vendor, which include options ranging from fried chicken with a side to a cup of fruit and coffee.
Junior Kristina Smith, vice president of services and sustainability for Duke Student Government, wrote a proposal for the program over the summer as a way to address affordability issues on campus.
“It’s really, really exciting [to see the program implemented] because I think it has the ability to touch many students and affect affordability on our campus in a positive way,” Smith said.
She explained that her proposal spurred administrators to reach out to vendors about starting the program. By the time Smith met with Duke Dining administrators at the beginning of the semester to further discuss the project, the vendors were already working to develop options they could offer at a reduced price.
The online list of options serves as an aggregated source of the affordable options at each vendor. In an email, Robert Coffey, director of dining services, noted that in some cases options were already available at these prices, but that the program shines a light on those meals.
“Many of these Daily Devil Deals are already part of the regular menu offerings and we are just highlighting them,” he wrote. “We really appreciate our local partners and national brands embracing items important to the Duke community like offering a Duke living wage and supporting sustainability initiatives while also maintaining high quality, variety and value.”
Smith noted that she got the idea for the wide-spread implementation of the project from the affordable lunch special that Devil’s Krafthouse offers—half of a sandwich and a salad or soup.
Andy Perno, owner and operator of Devil’s Krafthouse, said that offering an affordable combination for lunch was a “no-brainer.” He said that it took a while for students to become aware of the special, but now the Krafthouse sells a “good amount of them.”
“I’m happy with the way that it’s going,” Perno said. “It’s not something I would stop doing, because it’s not like it hurts anything for me.”
First-year Tanisha Nalavadi—who frequents Panda Express, Ginger and Soy, CaFé and Chef’s Kitchen—said that having a $5 lunch option available at all campus vendors helps to alleviate the problem of spending food points and FLEX funds on food.
Nalavadi said that she finds the food at Marketplace to be bland. She therefore typically relies on West Campus options for breakfast and lunch, which uses up her food points quicker.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Senior Quinn Steven, co-chair of the Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee, noted that the benefits of a guarantee of having access to $5 lunches is not just limited to students.
“It provides a little security about the cost of buying a meal on campus for individuals during the day. If you’re an off-campus person coming to campus for the day, you know that you will have lunch options that are only $5,” Steven said. “If you’re a student who is cost-conscious, you know that you at least have that one meal allocated at a certain price.”
Steven said that vendors are typically happy to do what they can to better serve students, but that it’s important for students to remember that the restauranteurs and their employees have to make a living.
She added that DUSDAC has been involved in the rollout of the program and helped facilitate student feedback that led to dining change.
In addition to the full list of options available online, signage about the options should soon be present at all locations except for Trinity Café, the Freeman Center and The Commons, wrote Kirsten Marinko, marketing research specialist for Duke Dining, in an email.
While the food options available under the new program vary from vendor to vendor, not all are meant to necessarily be full meals. Smith explained that the program is particularly important for Brodhead Center vendors and other locations where students would look to get a full meal.
“Because it is at every on-campus vendor, you have places like Bella Union and [Saladelia Café in Perkins], which are not necessarily places where people are getting full meals," she said. “Students who are going there wouldn’t say they are expecting to get a full lunch or a full dinner for under $5.”
Aside from whether the meals being offered are sufficient for students, Smith noted that she is also seeking feedback on whether there is enough variety of options available for students with dietary restrictions.
“The concern before this project was that there weren’t affordable meals necessarily on campus,” she said. “So now that we have affordable meals, [we want to] make those meals sufficient for all students.”