University of Maryland Dining Services is reviving an RHA initiative that provides students the opportunity to vote on foods served at dining halls.
The initiative allows students to share their food preferences through voting boxes present in this university’s dining halls. The system, which was proposed by the Dining Services Advisory Board in the Residence Hall Association, initially began last spring. After a short hiatus, the voting boxes returned to dining halls this semester.
The voting boxes are present at all three dining halls at this university. Each box is color-coded and corresponds to a food option for students to vote on.
To vote, students place a colored card corresponding to the voting box that represents the food of their choice. The food option that receives the most votes is featured in dining halls for a period of time.
The food options that students vote on are determined by the Residence Hall Association Dining Services Advisory Board and Dining Services, according to Jake Middleton, RHA’s dining services coordinator.
Middleton, a sophomore enrolled in letters and sciences, added that students can also suggest their own food ideas through “comment cards” in dining halls. He said the voting boxes allow Dining Services to receive feedback from students.
“We are very much reliant entirely on the feedback of students,” Middleton said. “[The voting boxes] are there for the fun aspect they bring.”
Earlier this semester, students voted between five different types of chili in the South Campus Dining Hall. This holiday season, students also voted between an apple cider bar and a hot chocolate bar in dining halls.
The hot chocolate bar received the most votes, according to Dining Services spokesperson Bart Hipple. Currently, the hot chocolate bar is in 251 North Dining Hall, but it will be added to the South Campus and Yahentamitsi dining halls shortly after Thanksgiving break, Hipple noted.
Hipple said the voting system increases student engagement in dining halls.
“[Voting] gives students more of a voice in what we’re serving,” Hipple said.
Several students, including sophomore immersive media design major Mateo Rodriguez, cited voting boxes’ simple design as a motivating factor to participate.
Rodriguez said the ease of the process encouraged him to vote. The voting boxes are also a “fun” addition to dining halls, he added.
“I vote because it’s kind of fun,” Rodriguez said. “It’s fun to look forward to something.”
Like Rodriguez, sophomore physics major Ayra Hussain said while she uses the voting boxes “out of boredom,” she is also curious to see which option wins. Hussain said she is mostly indifferent to the measure.
“There’s really no harm done if I do vote and there’s no harm done if I don’t,” Hussain said.
According to the RHA website, the Dining Services Advisory Board’s goal is to strengthen the dining experience with Dining Services. Every year, the board collaborates with Dining Services to introduce new ideas that support students, Middleton noted.
“[Dining Services’] entire organization is for the people,” Middleton said.