Self-sustenance can be a scary and exciting idea, especially for students recently weaned from the convenience of Campus Dining and the sentimentality of home-cooked meals. When confronted with this harsh reality, there are a few ways students typically react. Some rise to the challenge and regularly prepare healthy, delicious meals. Others, as a result of busyness, laziness or lack of culinary talent, simply do not. We all mourn the gastrointestinal systems of those among us who may be more Hot Pocket and Pop Tart by mass than human.
There is hope, however. Spoon University, a website built specifically to cater to college students and their eating habits, recently added a Cal Poly chapter to its rapidly-growing catalog. This chapter, founded by graphic communication sophomore Lauren Brinsfield and economics sophomore Kerry Doran, launched Feb. 17 with the goal of keeping students engaged with and informed about what they consume. The topic is important, but the tone is casual.
“It’s basically BuzzFeed for food,” said Brinsfield, the editorial director. “It has anything from recipes to restaurant reviews to any sort of (pertinent) news.”
SU is a noble undertaking, to be sure, but what separates it from the countless food-related sites that have been around for far longer? Why does Cal Poly need its own chapter?
Nutrition senior Bryanna Peace, the chapter’s community manager, is concerned with exactly that.
“It’s written by the students, so it’s going to be things that are relevant to them,” she said.
As with any geographic area, the food choices in San Luis Obispo are unique and require its own set of commentary, which is part of why Brinsfield and Doran first set out to provide that. Well, that and a Facebook advertisement.
“There was an ad to start your own chapter, so we just decided to start it,” Doran said.
To start a new chapter, Spoon University requires a petition signed by 300 people. So Brinsfield and Doran took to social media and promoted their proposal. Once they hit 300 signatures, they continued to seek out applicants for contributor and leadership positions (also through social media) so that quality content could actually be produced.
From the perspective of a long-standing news media organization, it might seem slightly intimidating that new publications can spring out of social media campaigns in a matter of weeks. For media consumers, though, that can be a compelling prospect. If a startup publication, or even just the potential for one, can gain traction in the brutal popularity contest of social media, it is likely worth founding.
The team behind the Cal Poly Spoon University chapter arose quickly, but its growth in terms of content is not entirely organically driven. Spoon University provides guidance to each of its chapters to ensure they follow the company-wide standards for formatting, topical choices and community engagement.
For example, each month the company has all the chapters organize a real-world event relating to a particular standardized theme, though it leaves the details up to the individual chapters. Last month, the theme was “travel.”
“We went to three different restaurants and tried food from around the world with Spoon members and other students,” Peace said. “We had one of the writers interview the owners, and there will be featured articles on those restaurants on our site.”
The site, accessible here, was obviously designed to showcase food. It is full of striking, high-contrast photos that shamelessly fuel the viewer’s appetite. Spoon University needs a companion site dedicated to exercise.
At the moment, the site is also light on quantity of content, but that should change in the coming months as Brinsfield, Doran and Peace ramp up their social media presence and accept new members to their team. The Twitter and Instagram accounts are under the name @spoon_calpoly.
“It’ll grow pretty quickly after next quarter,” Brinsfield said. “Out of the campuses that launched this quarter ours had the most interest from the start.”
“It’s open to people from all majors, so it attracts a lot of different types,” Peace added.
Brinsfield was confident that the chapter would gain traction in the physical world just as it did online.
“Ideally we’ll get to the point where people and restaurants will reach out to us,” she said. “And maybe give us free food.”