How is Fresh Ideas Meeting the Evolving Needs of Today’s Students?

April 5, 2023


At Fresh Ideas, we pride ourselves on thoughtfully and wholeheartedly caring for every student who walks into one of our dining halls.

The majority of these students fall into Generation Z – those born between 1997 and 2012. This generation is digitally-savvy, politically engaged, health-focused, and socially conscious.

We’re committed to meeting their needs and standards via the food we serve. Here’s how:

1. Sustainability

According to a 2022 survey conducted by the International Food Information Council, Gen Z-ers believe that sustainability plays an important role in decisions about what they eat.

Around one-third said environmental sustainability had an impact on their decision to buy foods and beverages, and 50% felt that their individual choices surrounding food and beverage purchases had an impact on the environment.

As a result, this generation is particularly drawn to sustainable, free-range, organic, locally-sourced, and plant-based foods. A report from Produce Blue Book found that 65% of Gen Z-ers want a more “plant-forward” diet, while 79% said they would eat meatless meals once or twice a week.

At Fresh Ideas, we cater to a wide range of diets and vegetarian and vegan options are always available. We’ve created a specific dining concept called Mindful Fork that brings delicious plant-based food to everyone and meets our guest’s growing plant-based appetites. 

Our reusable container virtual tracking system allows students to use a variety of containers, flatware, and cups at several dining outlets, making it convenient and sustainable.

We are also committed to sustainable business practices, whether it’s sourcing locally-grown produce or eliminating food waste

2. Diversity

Gen Z is considered the most racially and ethnically diverse generation yet – more than 48% are non-white

Consequently, this generation has been exposed to a rich variety of cultures and cuisines and is open to trying many different types of foods. Indeed, research from the Hartman Group found that 36% of parents of kids under the age of 18 said their children like to eat international foods. Meanwhile, 62% of Gen Z-ers aged 18-22 said they use recipes from social media to cook international food.

We strive to provide a rich variety of cuisines that cater to the diverse tastes of the students we serve. Our chefs make dishes that bring people together, remind them of home, and introduce them to new flavors.

At Midland University, Chef Gren makes a special effort to get to know international students and those who are far from home; asking them about their favorite comfort foods so he can recreate them in the dining program.  Often students assist with the preparation and or serving of the dish to other students.   

3. Health

Having grown up in an age of health and wellness, Gen Z-ers care deeply about eating healthy, fresh, nutrient-heavy, and additive-free foods. In fact, as many as 59% of this generation describes their own health as “excellent” or “very good”.

According to a Tufts Nutrition Report, around 50% say they would pay more for foods they perceive as healthy, compared to 32% of Millennials. Further, Gen Z-ers drink 20% less alcohol per capita than Millennials.

Preparing healthy and nutritious food options is a top priority in Fresh Ideas kitchens. We want students to leave our dining halls feeling well-fed and energized so they can excel in their studies. If diners have specific requirements, such as high-protein meals for athletes, we can readily accommodate them. To assist students with healthy eating, all nutritional information and allergens can be found on the menu. 

4. Passion

Gen Z has grown up with TV shows including Top Chef, Masterchef, Food Network, and the Cooking Channel. On TikTok, videos with the hashtag #cooking have amassed almost 150 billion views, and the app is regularly responsible for the launch of viral food crazes.

The impact? This is a generation that really cares about food and one that is unlikely to be satisfied with a frozen ready meal or a bland sandwich. 

As well as delivering a wide range of nutritious and delicious foods, we ensure our meals are well presented, look appetizing, and are served at the correct temperature. We also offer a range of customizable options, including self-service food stations, a pizza robot, and made-to-order meals.

Via the FreshX app, our students can see what foods are available in our kitchens each day and leverage the feedback feature to chat with members of our team.

5. Convenience

As many as 40% of Gen Z rate convenience as an important characteristic of the food they purchase and prepare. Members of this generation are big fans of online ordering and takeout.

Students, in particular, crave convenience and flexibility. To make the most of college life, they may choose to enroll in a variety of clubs and organizations or take on part-time work to help pay for tuition and living expenses. With these hectic schedules to juggle, many don’t have the time to plan their meals or cook from scratch.

The FreshX mobile app and Fresh on Demand 24/7 micro market machines help give students more flexibility when dining on campus.

The Fresh on Demand gives them access to hearty, balanced, and delicious meals 24/7. They can also pre-order food on the app and pick up meals whenever is convenient for them, be it an early breakfast on a Sunday morning or later dinner after a stint in the library.

Our guest’s dining preferences are changing more than ever. Although it can be challenging to keep up with a wide array of tastes on campus, our dining teams welcome the opportunity to create menus and programs that not only meet our student’s needs but also provide them with familiarity and culinary adventure.

Share below:

bread icon
daikon icon

Related Articles

See more