Students ate spätzle, schnitzel, kolaches, German plum cake, browsed fresh produce and baked goods in a farmers market, and listened to accordion music during a recent Oktoberfest event held outside and inside Harris Dining Hall on the campus of Texas State University (TXST). The event was part of the year’s first Joy-Ful gathering to celebrate students, faculty and staff being back on campus together, a program initiated last year by management company Chartwells Higher Education, for which it won an FM Best Concept Award . Chartwells Higher Ed is TXST's dining services provider.
“Wurstfest is a huge event in one of our neighboring towns and we wanted to bring some of that fun and flavor here,” explains Director of Dining Services Mukarram Taalib-Din Muhammad. “Our baked goods were made in house by bakers who have been here more than 40 years. The fresh produce at the farmers market let us shine a spotlight on the local farmers we use. We sourced products like kettle corn, cotton candy and funnel cake from a local vendor. Students turned out and they thoroughly enjoyed it.”
It's estimated that as many as 1,200 students, faculty, and staff, including TXST President Dr. Kelly Damphousse, came out for the event where they enjoyed games, giveaways, a photo booth, face painting and balloon animals. Chartwells staff dressed in German clothing with a few wearing full lederhosen.
“Dining is an important part of the campus experience,” Chartwells Higher Ed Resident District Manager Chin Hong Chua says. “People gather when they eat and they meet friends when they gather, making memories along the way. We want to do what we can to help make those experiences memorable. We want it to be so much more than breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
Nationally, campuses where Chartwells Higher Ed operates planned to celebrate Joy-Ful’s kick-off event while incorporating unique elements that are inherent to their campus and communities. Some planned Teaching Kitchens hosted by local vendors, DIY fall-scented candle making, apple cider and donut stations, and pumpkin yoga. Farmers markets like the one at TSU were on tap along with fall-themed dishes incorporating seasonal produce such as Herb Roasted Butternut Squash, Balsamic Brussel Sprouts with Cranberries and Turmeric Roasted Root Vegetables.
With hundreds of local farmers and vendors across the country invited to attend, students also get to interact directly with the people responsible for putting food on their dining hall tables and learn about the impact local farmers have while showing support for the hard-working individuals tasked with keeping the country fed.
“After the overwhelmingly positive feedback from our inaugural campaign and seeing how it brought students together, we wanted to bring back Joy-Ful this year to provide more opportunities for the incoming class and returning students to connect,” explains Chartwells Higher Ed CEO Lisa McEuen. “We strive to strengthen the entire campus community through food, and our first event will help connect students with the incredible farmers we work with in the broader local community.”