Residential and Dining Enterprises (R&DE) began sunseting the take-out containers from all dining halls starting April 11, drawing sharp criticism from students who relied on to-go boxes for meal flexibility and dining safety.
Signaling perhaps the end of an era, dining halls are nearing a full transition back to pre-pandemic operations.
The compostable containers available at the check-in were formerly ubiquitous around campus dining halls, accompanied by baskets of compostable utensils. Implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, the boxes were meant to enable students to eat in less crowded settings. But with increased vaccination rates and Stanford’s gradual relaxation of masking guidelines, eating in dining halls has become more popular.
Students have praised the containers for facilitating a more streamlined dining experience within busy Stanford schedules: “I really like the to-go containers,” Jesse Moonier ’23 said. “They allow me to consume my nutrients in the safety and solitude of my own room.”
The decision was spurred by a desire to facilitate community in dining halls along with financial and environmental concerns, according to an R&DE statement. “This academic year alone, more than 1 million to-go containers have been used, and the additional cost for containers and waste hauling has been substantial.”
R&DE administrators also cited worries about the food and landfill waste generated from the containers.
Olivia Schroeder ’22 said that, regardless of the reasoning behind the discontinuation, she believes that “[R&DE] should let us bring our own containers in so we can benefit from eating food wherever we need to.” Currently, students are barred from bringing personal containers and bags to take food from the buffets. R&DE further states that bags may be checked at their discretion when on dining hall premises.
Barry Cheung ’23 echoed concerns about the decision, which he called “a travesty.” “It feels like they’re using sustainability as a pretext to limit our options,” Cheung said.
The timing of the decision also evoked criticism from some students, including Isaiah Turner ’23, who said that even if R&DE planned to eliminate the boxes, he would have preferred the change being made after the current academic year.
Since R&DE made this announcement, Stanford students have been circulating a petition calling for the continuation of the COVID-era policy, either through bringing back single-use containers or sourcing sustainable alternatives. The petition had garnered over 160 signatures at the time of publication.
For now, however, to-go container enthusiasts will have to eat their meals on-site.