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8 February 2012

iPads offer nutritional facts at campus eateries

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Dominika Swieboda,, freshman, checks the nutritional information for the dinner meal at the new ipad kiosks in the Mahoney/Pearson dinning hall on Wednesday evening. Cayla Nimmo//Assistant Photo Editor

Nutritional information is now a tap and a swipe away in the dining halls and food court.

Dining Services, in conjunction with Chartwells, has installed kiosks with mounted iPads that allow students to access the nutritional information of items on the menu and provide feedback on Chartwells’ service via an app.

The system is being tested at the University of Miami and the University of Nebraska-Kearney.

“We’re working with Chartwells to work more proactively when approaching issues,” said Sandra Redway, the executive director of Dining Services. “The more we hear, the better we are.”

Students have had access to nutritional information online and in menus that could be requested at the dining halls in the past, Redway said.

“Before there were large manuals you had to thumb through for information and they weren’t easily accessible,” she said. “With the new system, it’s at your fingertips.”

Since Redway came to campus in 2010, the new addition has been a work in progress.

Following town hall meetings and forums with students, Redway said UM Dining Services has been taking student input into account.

To ensure that Dining Services hears what students have to say, Student Government (SG)  Press Secretary Mike Piacentino also serves as the social media marketing intern for UM Dining.

Student Government and UM dining see the value in increased transparency, Piacentino said. He believes the students will appreciate it as well.

“I think once students are aware of the kiosks, it’ll be a staple in the dining halls,” he said.  “It’s a very useful tool.”

Some students think the new addition to the food court and dining halls is useful.

“I think it’s a great idea,” junior Ariana Salmon said. “It’s always comforting to know I’m making the right diet choices.”

Others are unsure if the iPads will actually be used.

“I think it’s cool for people to look at, but I don’t think many will use it,” sophomore Ailynn Nguyen said. “People come hungry, and they’re not going to stop and check the nutrition, especially with long lines at lunch time.”

SG is also currently working with Dining Services on initiatives, including a take-out option in dining halls for students, and they are considering other input from students.

They are also working to bring a separate dessert spot to campus, such as an ice cream shop, but permit issues have been a roadblock thus far, Piacentino said.