Student Proposal for Hot-Food Vending Machine Falters in Face of Aramark, Health Issues and Cost

John Grunbeck ’09 envisioned a hot-food vending machine in the GW mailroom and eagerly submitted an Abbot Grant proposal to the Abbot Association. But he did not present his proposal at the Abbot Academy dinner after learning of significant hurdles that the grant would face, sent to him in an email from Associate Head of School Rebecca Sykes. Grunbeck said that he was surprised to hear about the issues with his proposal before he even presented at the Abbot Dinner. However, Sykes said, “It happens fairly typically for students to have to elaborate on a proposal.” In the proposal’s statement of purpose, Grunbeck wrote, “Through discussions with peers about the need for more alternative options to the temporary Commons and the Ryley Roller, without having the expenses of ordering, it was concluded that the purchase of a hot meal vending machine would provide a valuable alternative to the Andover community.” Initially, Grunbeck received a message from Sykes asking him to elaborate on his brief proposal. He added details to his proposal that it would be a Tombstone pizza vending machine produced by Hot Choice Systems. The day before the Abbot Association Dinner, Sykes wrote to Grunbeck again, informing him that there were various reasons why his proposal might not be approved. In her email, Sykes wrote, “You are welcome to leave the proposal in and please know that the board will consider the proposal. In fairness, we wanted to let you know that the proposal faces a considerable challenge in getting approval.” Sykes informed Grunbeck of three potential problems with the grant. First, due to contractual obligations with Andover’s food provider Aramark, any hot-food vending machine would have to be endorsed by Aramark. The second reason was that vending machine food is often unhealthy. After approving school nutritionist Aggie Kip’s proposal last year for healthier food on campus, the Abbot Association might be reluctant to support the hot-food vending machine. Finally, after talking with Scott Flannagan, Andover’s Aramark food service director, Sykes said that the hot-food vending machines are costly and difficult to maintain. The 11 Abbot Academy board members come to Andover in the Fall and Winter Terms to distribute roughly $350,000 to individuals with ideas on how to improve the Andover community. Each person interested in receiving an Abbot grant submits a written proposal by October 12 and, at the Abbot Academy dinner, verbally elaborates on their idea. The process of reviewing Abbot Grant proposals begins with the President and Program Chair of the Abbot Academy Association, who receive the proposals offvcampus. As the proposals are reviewed, questions and concerns are relayed to Rebecca Sykes, Instructor in French Natalie Schorr and Dean of Studies John Rogers. These three representatives research the issues with the various proposals and often contact students to answer the questions of the Abbot Academy Association. In an email, Schorr wrote, “The point of reviewing the proposals before the Abbot dinner is to check that the proposals are complete, so that any problems can be resolved before the board makes its decisions.” She continued, “The Abbot Academy board members come from all over the country for their meetings, so they have to have enough information to be able to make their decisions during a single all-day meeting, the day after the Abbot dinner.” Grunbeck consequently communicated with Abbot Cluster Dean Elisa Joel, his faculty advisor on the proposal, and decided not to attend the Abbot Grant dinner. He said, “I do not intend on continuing the pursuit of this idea due to a lack of funding and interest by the school.”