ALLENDALE, Mich. (AP) — Students looking to grab a quick bite to eat between classes at Grand Valley State University can now get their food on-the-go.
College dining leaders, looking to capitalize on a national food truck trend, have renovated a former concession trailer to become a semi-mobile dining option, parking it across from Zumberge Library.
The menu is slim - students can choose from four types of pre-made burritos for $3.99 - but Senior Food Services Director Ryan Jones believes the stand, known as Zoca Express, will be a hit with students.
It gives options to students "who may be in a hurry or can't wait in one of the lines at the dining hall," Jones said.
The stand, which accepts cash, credit and student meal cards, opened when classes started.
Because campus dining employees can't cook in the trailer - state health codes require a three compartment sink - the burritos, as well as chips and salsa arrive pre-made from campus kitchens. The items are kept warm in a hot food holding unit.
Recently, the stand caught the eye of Costas Ciungan, a 21-year-old legal studies major from Wyandotte, a suburb of Detroit.
Eager to get to class early to get some work done, Ciungan ordered a burrito and was quickly on his way. He said campus dining halls get crowded around lunch time, sometimes leaving students waiting more than 10 minutes before getting food. That's a problem if you don't have a lot of time between classes.
"It's very convenient because it's located near the lecture halls," he said. "I'm headed to class, and I figured it would be easy to grab and go."
Food trucks have grown in popularity at college campuses throughout the country with some universities operating the dining option and others charging a fee for vendors to park and sell on campus.
In part, they're aimed at serving students who've grown dissatisfied with on-campus dining options. They've also focused on offering students more options for a late night meal as well as serving remote areas of campus.
One truck at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Ma., offers students high-end Asian Cuisine, such as ga nuong, "a Vietnamese dish with lemon-grass-infused grilled chicken," according to a story in the Wall Street Journal.
Looking to serve its large international student population, the University of Texas at Dallas planed on opening its first food truck this fall, "featuring a fusion menu of Asian, Indian and Mediterranean cuisines to reflect the school's large number of international students, who make up 19 percent of the student body," the story said.
GVSU's options aren't quite so exotic.
But if the university's food trailer is successful, Jones said he would like to see the university agree to a full-scale food truck, where food can be prepared and served.
That's a ways off, but he's already thought about concepts, one of them focusing on different types of pitas, with the other centering on grilled cheese sandwiches.
Students "are a lot more diverse in their palates than they've ever been," he said. "They're getting a lot more diverse and a lot more knowledgeable about their food."
Whether the food trailer will be a success with students remains to be seen, but Jones said he'll keep the cart open as long as students keep stopping by.
He plans on keeping the cart open as late into the semester as possible, and is considering adding space heaters as the winter approaches so students can keep warm while waiting in line.
"We've seen a lot of faculty and staff say what a great idea this is because they've had such a struggle walking over to the dining halls and waiting in line," he said.