When students go off to college, they often miss warm meals prepared by someone they love. Auburn Global, a department at Auburn University that supports international students during their first year at college, realized that international students might be missing the comfort of those warm meals during the COVID-19 pandemic more than ever. In response, Auburn Global has expanded meal plan options through a new meal delivery service that allows students to enjoy a hot, fresh meal in the comfort of their apartments.
Meeting student dining needs during COVID-19
While some dining options remained open on campus, Auburn Global recognized that students might not want to leave their apartments to purchase ingredients and prepare their own meals—and that some food items might be difficult to find in stores during this time.
Through a partnership with two local companies, Greens and Beans and The Irritable Bao, Auburn Global expanded its meal plan options through the addition of a meal delivery service that offers a variety of foods. Students can order almost anything: spaghetti and meatballs, vegetarian dishes, authentic Chinese cuisine, and more. Students have the opportunity to choose from several plans with different quantities of lunches and/or dinners to be delivered each week.
Auburn Global Managing Director Sean Busenlener said, “The desire to expand our meal plan offerings through the addition of a meal delivery service was driven by the needs of our students. We have found a way to offer authentic cuisines that are familiar to our students, and have those items delivered to their front doors. Our robust meal selection process not only adds significant value to meal plan offerings, but also gives the students the access to choose the foods they want.”
Irritable Bao owner and operator Whitley Dykes, formerly an Auburn Global Student Services Advisor, said, “I’m really happy that we could partner with a department that cares about the needs of international students the way Auburn Global does. With my wife being from China and with our experiences as a family abroad, one of the main goals of our business is to provide a place where international students feel very welcomed and this delivery service, especially during the current situation, helps give international students a taste of home.”
Getting student and staff feedback
Auburn Global Student Services Advisor Sylar Liu (formerly an Auburn University international student) said the meal delivery service has been especially helpful to students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The delivery service has been a great option for students,” says Liu. “It saves students time, leaving more time for students to study rather than shopping for and preparing food. It takes another worry off their shoulders. For our Chinese students in particular, being able to enjoy authentic hometown food from the Irritable Bao helps bring the comfort of home to them.”
Hoanan, a finance student from China, has opted into the meal delivery service and receives five dinners each week.
“The meals are a mix of American food and Chinese traditional cuisine,” Hoanan says. “I like it a lot, especially that they deliver it to my door every night. The deliverer knocks on my door, puts down the food, and leaves so I did not have to come into contact with them… It means I don’t have to spend a lot of time purchasing groceries. It’s convenient, and the food normally arrives around 6 p.m. when I am ready for dinner. It’s definitely affordable, too!”
Convenience and affordability are just some of the benefits of the meal delivery plan option. Hoanan added, “The food tastes great! It made me think about restaurant food back in China. … I am definitely considering continuing to purchase meal plans for the fall semester.”
Meal plans going forward
Auburn Global plans to continue offering expanded meal plan options including delivery services into the fall 2020 semester and beyond.
“We’ve found that this option could be beneficial to students even after some of the changes that we’ve all had to make in our daily lives begin to subside,” says Busenlener. “Sometimes, students want a warm meal delivered to their door and, in the spirit of student success and holistic student support, we are happy to continue to offer this to students.”
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