What Will Succeed Food for Thought in the New Yale SOM Campus?

In the early years of Yale SOM, food options around campus were limited. Once the nearby cafeteria closed after lunch each day, the only option for students looking for a cup of coffee and a muffin was to hike over to Whitney Avenue. In the spring of 1985, six students got together to found Food for Thought, an on-campus café — now located near the mailroom at the Prospect Street entrance of the school — that not only served coffee and donuts, but exemplified the SOM mission, with all profits going to support the Internship Fund.

Around campus, students often refer to Food for Thought as "FFT." You might overhear someone in the Hall of Mirrors asking if FFT is open, or scheduling a quick meeting on a class project at one of the FFT tables. The three letters are as ingrained in the school's culture as S, O, and M. So it came as no surprise that when students entered the competition to redesign Food for Thought for the new Yale SOM campus being built on Whitney Avenue, they tended to incorporate the letters in the names of their new ventures.

On January 24, four finalist teams pitched their plans for the Food for Thought business plan competition, including teams Fit for Thought and Fun for Thought. One plan that was not under consideration was a new café: since the new campus will include facilities run by Yale Dining services, FFT will no longer be able to serve any food. The teams were also limited by the space provided: they had to work with only 272 square feet in the new building.

Of the four proposals that reached the finals, two were takes on a gaming room; one was a store selling school supplies, books, and services for students putting together conferences or job searching; and the fourth was a small gym. After the presentations, a panel of judges — Dean Sharon Oster, Deputy Dean Stan Garstka, Professor Art Swersey, Professor Fiona Scott Morton, and Sherilyn Scully, director of student and academic services — deliberated and chose a winner.

"All the presentations were fantastic and every one of the ideas is something we should have in the new building," said Oster. "But the one we thought was the best use of the space was the fitness center. We believe it could be a great addition to the school and potentially earn some money for Food for Thought."

That would be Fit for Thought, the proposal from first year students Julia Otis, Emma Pollack-Pelzner, Julia Rozovsky, Matt Schmitt, and Jason Zahorchak. It included nine pieces of exercise equipment (stationary bicycles, elliptical trainers, and treadmills) as well as three benches for free weights. A number of the machines would be "green"; they would draw no power and in some cases, create small amounts of electricity.

The group predicted that the gym would provide nearly $60,000 each year to the Internship Fund, a significant jump from the amount currently raised by Food for Thought, which netted about $35,000 last year. "We came up with a number of ideas for the space, but came to believe that an exercise space was something people at SOM could really, really use," said Otis. "The green aspect fits with the mission of SOM in terms of being environmentally and socially aware."