After the opening of five new vendors in the basement of District House on Monday August 22, students said new discount promotions were increasing the visibility of a dining program which they say has gone largely unnoticed For years.
Vendors – DH Pizza & Pasta Co., Crisp, True Burger, The Halal Shack and DC Taco House – are offering “meal deals” to students for purchase an entrée, drink and side for $8, a discounted meal price advertised on screens above the order counters. GWorld vendors, including those who were previously in District House, have Free Meal deals from 2016, but more than 10 students said they were unaware of the discounts at the time and only started using the program after the dining hall reopened last week due to new signage.
For $8, students can purchase a burger, turkey burger or tender chicken entree from True Burger, two slices of DH Pizza, a bowl of grilled chicken or vegetables from Crisp, any bowl of rice or of lettuce with protein, whole fruit and a fountain drink from Halal Shack or two chicken or vegetable tacos from DC Taco. All vendors add side dish and fountain with entrees at no additional cost.
Senior Brandon Lee said new vendors at District House advertise their meal deals more publicly than others on campus, and students are now more likely to use the discounts than in previous years.
“It’s very cool that right when you walk into District there’s this big sign that says ‘Meal Deals’,” Lee said. “It’s always been that thing at GW, but nobody really knew how to use it, so it’s very cool that GW is making Meal Deals accessible.”
The University collaborate along with 18 other on- and off-campus dining partners to offer similar discounts through the Meal Deals program with meals from $6-12 at popular places like &Pizza, Beefsteak and Flower Child.
Some of the former District House restaurant vendors that closed last spring offered meal deals comparable to previous years — Kin’s was selling $8-10 poke bowls, Wiseguy Pizza had an $8 two-slice deal, and Sol was selling burritos for $9.59.
Student union president Christian Zidouemba said in an interview last week that meal affordability at District House presented a cost-effective solution to GW’s long problem with food insecurity on campus. He said the vendors are more affordable meals than most off-campus dining options.
“This new dining system provides many opportunities for our students to bond and come together as a community and reduce the food insecurity we have experienced for far too long on our campus,” Zidouemba said in the interview. .
Dining at District House is reserved for members of the GW community this fall after the Foggy Bottom and West End Neighborhood Advisory Commission approved the University’s request to remove public access to the space last January. GW’s change has raised alarm bells for some Foggy Bottom residents about the dwindling number of affordable dining options in the neighborhood.
Freshman Maru Ayala said she dines more often at District House than at other vendors on campus due to discounts through Meal Deals, which allow her to eat out more often than she normally would. with purchases like a bowl of rice with two sauces at Halal Shack.
“I’m on a budget, so if I wasn’t ordering from a Meal Deal, it would actually be once a week or once every two weeks to treat myself,” Ayala said.
District House, The Eatery at Pelham Commons and the Buff and Brew Coffee Shop on the Mount Vernon campus are currently the only dining options run by GW University. A 225-seat all-you-can-eat dining room at Thurston Hall will open in mid-September, followed by a 319-seat dining room at Shenkman Hall in the spring, which will also be all you can eat.
Although they originally planned to convert District House into an all-you-can-eat dining room, officials changed course and re-adopted the traditional vendor style to the building in June. A month later, they said ‘global supply chain issues’ had delayed the opening of all-you-can-eat restaurants in the Thurston and Shenkman rooms until the fall, pushing back the dining room’s debut Shenkman in mid-spring.
Associate Vice President of Business Services Seth Weinshel said the new provider options in the basement of District House – all operated by GW’s catering partner Chartwells Higher Education – have received initial feedback “ very positive” from the students.
“We are delighted that District House restaurants are reopening under the GW Dining brand,” Weinshel said in the email. “The refreshed space provides students with affordable, high-quality food, which is a staple of the new dining plan.”
Weinshel said the District House dining hall is equipped to serve 2,000 students per “meal period” and can accommodate more than 400 students.
Initial plans for the other two dining halls to open this year and next – located in the Shenkman and Thurston rooms – called for seating capacity of around 319 and 225 respectively. Those numbers worried some community members in May because the capacity of those dining halls lags behind that of other DC universities, including universities with fewer students.
Weinshel declined to say if or how the University would replace District House restaurant vendors with new kitchens if students requested it, which he said in June officials would agree to.
Henry Huvos, Shea Carlberg and Faith Wardwell contributed reporting.