Chartwells Higher Education Launches ‘First Year Eats’ Program to Foster Inclusive College Experience for Incoming College and University Students

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Jan. 11, 2024 | Recognized leader in contract foodservice management Chartwells Higher Education today announced the launch of “First Year Eats,” an innovative program designed to create a transformative and inclusive experience for students entering their first year of college. First Year Eats is built specifically to focus on first-year students, with the goal of making them feel welcome and connected throughout their college career.

According to a recent student survey conducted by Chartwells, 62% of students say that dining helps them spend more time and connect with friends. Through a series of engaging events and strategic initiatives, First Year Eats aims to empower freshman and first-generation students to learn, grow, and flourish academically, socially, and personally.

“We strive to not only meet the culinary needs of students but also their academic and social needs,” said Lisa McEuen, CEO of Chartwells Higher Education. “The adjustments to campus life for students starting their college career can be daunting and stressful, and we want to do everything we can to make them feel a part of the campus community through First Year Eats. The program will foster a welcoming and inclusive experience while helping students be their best selves in and out of the classroom.”

First Year Eats includes:

  • Monthly Activations: These exclusive events are designed to connect first-year students to each other and the campus, providing opportunities for socialization and engagement. For example, at Wichita State University (WSU), Chartwells WSU dining interns hosted a Coffee Walk and Talk in which they invited students on an intimate tour of Chartwells’ campus dining options. Each month, campuses will offer something similar in the form of a “Mix & Mingle,” where participants can interact with the dining team members or campus groups.
  • Partnerships: Chartwells and campus units will be able to enhance collaborative efforts that aim to support student success and well-being. For example, Florida Fresh Dining at the University of Florida previously worked with the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars Program to engage first-generation students during an event celebrating National First-Generation Day where students were able to learn more about campus resources and dining options.
  • Customized Plans: Each campus will develop a custom plan based on the unique needs of their students. George Washington University, for instance, offered students a themed meal series that incorporated international cultural elements. This series included a New Orleans-themed brunch with jazz music and beignets and a Spooky Mic Night with finger foods such as perogies and Philly cheesesteaks.
  • Year Two and Beyond: Schools will work with students to become ambassadors in their second year and continue to be an instrumental part of the First Year Eats program.

“First Year Eats is an intentional, focused program that aligns students with various on-campus groups and departments,” said Vanessa Parra, Marketing Manager at California State University, Monterey Bay, “On campus we had a popular alumni punk band play at our event while we served milkshakes in martini glasses. It was a new, exciting way to connect our dining team with the students, and the feedback was extremely positive. We look forward to continuing and expanding the program moving forward.”

Throughout the year, schools will conduct surveys to understand the impact of the program and make continual enhancements. First Year Eats is currently available at 11 schools and will be available to additional schools in the coming year.