This year at Western Washington University, there is a new dining service providing meals and goods for students. With the change from Aramark to Chartwells Higher Education, there is an observable difference in the personal care products in the on-campus and in-dorm markets.
The campus markets include the Viking Union Market, Market at Buchanan, Market at Ridgeway, Market at Miller and Market at Fairhaven. They are located near on-campus housing, for residents to access snacks and personal care products.
These personal care products include items such as shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, makeup wipes and menstrual products.
Compared to options available in previous years, many organic and limited-ingredient personal care products are currently sold in the markets, as well as an increase in products for Black hair.
“Some brands may have changed this year due to us being a new dining provider on campus, with our own product mix that may differ from the previous provider,” said Alexandra Perez, the senior marketing manager at Dining at WWU.
There are a variety of brands of personal care products offered in the markets, which include ECO, Hello Peace, Purezero, Burt’s Bees, Hello Naturally, Playtex, Cantu and Mielle, said Perez.
Many of these brands promote sustainability, an important goal for Western. “Western is a university of the environment. Sustainability is at the heart of what we do here,” according to Western’s website.
However, sustainability is not the only factor that determines the brands and products sold in the markets.
“We look at multiple factors when choosing our hygiene products, such as sustainability, consumer price and popularity within students or guests," Perez said. "We want to ensure that the products selected are a good fit for the market we are placing them in, and consistently listen to our guests’ feedback for items they would like to see. We are always open to exploring other options in our market spaces.”
Fraol Debele, a fourth-year student at Western and former Black Student Union president, advocated two years ago for more Black hair products to be offered in the markets.
“Something that I personally struggled with as a Black individual living in Bellingham was the inaccessibility to access Black hair products,” Debele said.
This caused her to think of ways to get more hair products like shampoos, conditioners, oils and bonnets in the markets. After discussion with supervisors of dining and Aramark, they were able to get a limited amount of the requested items, Debele said.
After switching providers, Debele has noticed an even larger change in the options of products.
“I feel like this year I’ve just seen a lot more products, which I’m assuming is because of the change we had in the provider. Aramark was pretty limited in the amount of products that they could provide,” Debele said.
At Eastern Washington University, their dining and retail management also listens to student feedback and offers items based on requests.
“We work very hard to research to bring products in because we are here for the students and we want to sell what they want to buy,” said Paul Kile, the director of Dining and Catering Services at Eastern.
Another factor for determining products at Eastern is the pricing.
“Our biggest satisfier is looking for those value brands. Our students are asking for cheaper stuff,” Kile said.
Many value brands are being replaced by organic and limited-ingredient brands of personal care products. This year, the prices are noticeably more expensive, Debele said.
“Our products are priced at the market rate, and we believe there are options available for any budget,” Perez said.
But students who buy the products may disagree.
Regardless of price, the market offers a way for students to easily access personal hygiene products, and they can use their dining dollars as opposed to their real money, Debele said.
This is Chartwells’ first year as the provider of personal hygiene products in the markets at Western. Students will likely continue to notice many changes as Chartwells remains Western's dining partner.
If a student feels that there is a lack of a certain product available to them, they can fill out a feedback form.
“We always encourage feedback through our website if our guests are looking for something specific,” Perez said.
Debele’s efforts in increasing product diversity show that the available brands are quite limited, but it doesn’t have to be that way forever.
“I do think that we can offer more products, I think we could have products for everybody. The amount of personal hygienic products that I would like to see would be proportional to the amount of snacks,” Debele said.
Olivia Marty (she/her) is a campus life reporter for The Front. She is a sophomore majoring in public relations journalism. In her spare time, Olivia loves going thrifting, watching documentaries, and crafting. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.