Cornell Dining spends hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to feed students on campus. But last year, $23,375 of that budget was spent not on the food, but on the utensils. In Mother Goose rhymes, the dish is culpable for running away with the spoon — but at Cornell, the students and faculty who dine at residential and on-campus eateries are the ones to blame.
New posters hung in dining halls across campus implore eaters to leave the forks be.
“[Spending money on silverware] makes us a little sad,” the poster further reads. “Help us out by not making us sad. Please return ‘misplaced’ silverware and dishware to any dining room.”
The Cornell Dining team does budget for some stolen silverware, as well as the wear, tear and breakage that comes with regular use, according to Karen Brown, Senior Director for Marketing and Communications for Cornell’s Student and Campus Life.
“As much as we’d love to buy serviceware items only once and have them forever, we always budget with a factor for some damaged or lost quantities in mind,” Brown said, adding that other universities also do this.
If a Cornell Dining staff member sees a student or other visitor removing Cornell Dining property, including silverware and dishware, the staff member is allowed to ask that person to put it back. However, the staff member is not required to do or say anything.
“We don’t want our staff to feel they’re in the position of having to confront someone, and we certainly don’t want our staff to feel they should chase anyone,” Brown said.
If a student is caught stealing from a campus eatery, that student could be referred to the Office of the Judicial Administrator, or to the Cornell University Police Department, depending on the circumstances and the situation. However, Cornell Dining “generally prefers to avoid such approaches.”
“We prefer to imagine that students intend to borrow spoons for their ice cream, or forks and knives for their take-out meals, with every intention of bringing them back,” Brown said. “Which is why we always welcome back ‘misplaced’ silverware, coffee cups, plastic tumblers, soup bowls, and so on, with no questions asked.”
In addition to stealing silverware and dishware, Cornell students have also stolen food from campus eateries. However, Cornell Dining approaches to stealing food differently.
“While we allow students to take a piece of fruit or dessert item with them when leaving a dining room, if someone is taking a bagel, or pizza, or sandwich, or other items to make a meal of later, or if someone is filling a carry-out container but also eating a full meal before leaving, we try to take the opportunity to find out whether the student is facing food insecurity,” Brown said.
Brown said that if students are facing food insecurity, Cornell Dining has a “variety of tools to help address their needs.”
“Of course, we’d prefer to have students approach us directly, such as by taking advantage of Cornell’s Swipe Out Hunger Program,” Brown said.
The Swipe Out Hunger Program allows Cornell students to donate one meal from their traditional or house meal plan each semester into the Swipe Out Hunger fund. Eligible students with a Swipe Out Hunger meal plan can draw from this fund, using their Swipe Out Hunger meal plan at any of Cornell Dining’s All You Care to Eat Dining Rooms.
Brown said that the Cornell Dining team makes a point of reminding students to bring back serviceware at the end of every semester, but silverware will be welcomed back to any campus eatery at any time throughout the year.