Have you ever wanted to know the Commons menu right when you get out of class? Or if Carrburritos composts their scraps? What about the meal plan hours for the Davis Café? There’s an app for that! Foodscape, an iOS app created by students working with the Sustainability Office over the summer, offers answers to all these questions and more.
Steffaney Wood ‘18 explained that “the purpose of the app is to inform students and the community of sustainable food practices among on-campus and local venues, while at the same time creating a convenient way to establish dish preferences.”
The app, available on iTunes, contains information regarding the sustainability efforts made by each of the dining services, which include Commons, Davis Café and Main Street restaurants Fork!, Pickled Peach and Carrburritos. The Sustainability Office hopes to encourage more, if not all, the restaurants on Main Street to participate. For each of these venues, Foodscape provides the restaurant’s hours, dishes (often including pictures), prices, phone number, address, a brief description and website.
Foodscape also assigns icons to every restaurant and dish to inform students and community members about the dining services’ sustainability efforts. Kaity Anstorm, a recent graduate who has been working on the app, clarifies: “To be truly sustainable, it can’t just be environmental, like most people think.” The restaurant must also demonstrate economic, social, and environmental awareness to achieve a true sustainability status. These icons range indicate features from using certified-organic Bird Friendly coffee —like Commons does — to encouraging employees to participate in volunteering. Anstorm shares, “The icons are so cool because it’s finally increasing transparency […] There are some restaurants that have decided to make some changes to how they are running their restaurants, so they’ve started to do composting and started to do more volunteer opportunities.”
In addition to sustainability information, users have the ability to select whether they like or dislike the dish. If you like the dish, they can highlight it green by swiping to the left, which puts the dish into the “favorites” menu. The menu lists all “likes” organized by restaurant. If they don’t like a dish, they can swipe to the right and highlight it red. “Liking” or “disliking” an item on the menu at Commons will send that information directly back to the Commons staff. Anstorm says, “Before, there was a big disconnect between food services and the student body and there were some butting heads when the meal plan policy changed. So, dining services, after working with them are very, very committed to giving students the food they really want.”
The idea for the app originated with a group of seven students who began by immersing themselves in the food culture around Davidson, talking with chefs, volunteering at the Farmers Market, or working at the Farm. Then, they began to identify the “pain points,” as described by Anstorm . “Pain points” define where there was a need for more information about sustainability or the option to share one’s opinions about the food. They worked with several faculty members who acted as mentors and provided feedback. According to Joe St. James Lopez ‘14, Sustainability Fellow, they wanted the app to be “very interactive. That allows students to feel like they had a say in what food was available and what kind of sustainability issues they wanted to focus on or deal with,”. Although he expects the initial users to be more sustainability-minded he hopes that students who are less focused on sustainability issues will become involved in understanding where their food comes from and its environmental impact.