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Taking a closer look at the CO-OP

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The Swarthmore CO-OP has been a part of the Swarthmore community for over 80 years, and its status as the only grocery store in the ville makes it popular among both residents of the borough and students. The college’s relationship with the CO-OP changed in 2016 when students were able to utilize their OneCard and Swat Points there, but the relationship between the CO-OP and college students has a long history.

The CO-OP is a food cooperative that first opened its doors in 1932. Food cooperatives are distinctive from other grocery stores because they have investors where decisions regarding the production and distribution of its food are chosen by its members. The CO-OP is the third oldest food cooperative in the country.

According to digital marketing intern at the CO-OP Isabel Paynter, the CO-OP’s investors typically purchase 60 shares of the company for $5 each. These investors who have at least $300 of equity in the company have the ability to influence the products carried at the CO-OP. Many of the items the CO-OP carries are considered speciality or local.

“We [the CO-OP] have over 110 local vendors, which means the products we carry are not the type you can buy at Giant or Target. We carry brands that are organic or fit our brand and sometimes that’s why our prices are more expensive,” Paynter said.

For some students, the higher prices at the CO-OP can be a deterrent from buying products there. Leisa Liao ’18, who is on the PPR meal plan that offers $700 in Swat Points, noted that while she likes to use her Swat Points at the CO-OP, she still finds some of the prices expensive.

“This year I’m trying to shop more at the CO-OP because I don’t like eating out as much and I want to learn how to cook. The other week I hosted a dinner party for eight of my friends, and after doing some grocery shopping in Media and at the CO-OP, it ended up being about $200.” Liao said.

Liao also shops at other nearby grocery stores and compares prices to find which products are better to purchase at the CO-OP. She primarily shops at the CO-OP due to its accessibility with the OneCard.

“I only started shopping at the CO-OP once it was on the OneCard. I’ll shop at the CO-OP until I run out of points because you’re using points that you’ve already paid for with your room and board. I wish the OneCard would expand to other grocery stores, like Target or Trader Joe’s, that offer cheaper prices on products,” Liao said.

Though the CO-OP is OneCard-accessible this school year, this summer, rumors erupted about the CO-OP losing its OneCard status. However, these rumors were quelled shortly before students returned to campus.

According to Paynter, the terms and agreements with the college had expired and renegotiations were made. Some of these renegotiations included the elimination of the 5 percent discount off all products for Swarthmore students. Yet Paynter believes that the CO-OP’s new online engagement is more beneficial to students. Raffles, email subscription lists, and contests all give students the opportunity to score new coupons or discounts at the CO-OP.

“I think [having the CO-OP on the OneCard] is a good way for college kids to be a part of the Swarthmore community. Students can benefit from a lot of things that the CO-OP offers that they don’t know about,” Paynter said.

Thomas Dailak ’21, a regular customer at the CO-OP, likes to shop at the CO-OP because of its vicinity to the college.

“I shop at the CO-OP because I like to cook and I need to buy ingredients somewhere. There [is] very limited supply of places where I can do that. For me, coming from New York, the prices [at the CO-OP] are pretty much what I’m used to,” Dailak said.

However, Dailak does believe that easier access to other grocery stores would lower costs for students.

“They [the CO-OP] know they’ve cornered the market on groceries, so I think that the prices would probably adjust as well if more students had other options for [grocery] shopping,” he said.

Though the school offers shuttle service to stores like Target, Giant, and Trader Joe’s, these stores are often less convenient due to the CO-OP’s close proximity to campus and its OneCard accessibility.

While criticisms of the CO-OP’s pricing persist, the CO-OP continues to play a significant role in both the borough and on campus.

OneCard expands access, increases options

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When the OneCard system at the college was launched in May 2016, it was implemented to create a single system that would enable students to have card access to most buildings on campus. Now, the OneCard serves as an ID, a key for more buildings on campus, a library card, and a way to access dining services on- and off-campus.

This year, the OneCard has expanded to grant students access to all dorms as well as more academic buildings, such as Beardsley, Trotter, and Pearson. In addition, an email from Paula Dale in September announced that the Swarthmore Campus and Community store would be accepting Swat Points on the OneCard for snacks, beverages, and health and beauty products.

Now the OneCard can also be utilized at another dining service on campus: Paces Cafe.

We no longer accept cash, but we take Swat Points (off-campus points) and Garnet Cash. The change in accessibility has created a spike in sales and put pressure on our staff,” Ahmad Shaban ’19, Paces director, said of the shift to Paces being on the meal plan.

While the OneCard has broadened dining options both on- and off-campus for students since its implementation, some students note drawbacks. Adan Leon 18 believes that the OneCard is only useful for Swat Points, points that can be used at exclusive vendors in the Ville.

In terms of living off-campus, [the OneCard] was helpful because I could use points at the co-op. If it weren’t for Swat Points, the OneCard wouldn’t be worth it,” Leon said.

Leon also finds the use of the OneCard by Public Safety for building access occasionally problematic. He believes these issues did not exist prior to the implementation of the OneCard and are a part of a larger transition for Public Safety.

“When I came here in fall 2013, Public Safety was very helpful and saw themselves as a service. I think [Public Safety] and its use [of the Onecard] is part of an overall shift towards security instead of service. For example, they don’t open the doors for students anymore. Because they have a registry they can easily access electronically, they are now able to deny students access to certain places,” Leon said.

In contrast, director of Public Safety Mike Hill highlighted the increased access that the OneCard provides.

Prior to OneCard, students would not be able to gain access after a certain time or would have to sign out a key from public safety; now students can study and work whenever they need to,” Hill stated in an email.

While the OneCard is viewed as beneficial to some and as an occasional annoyance to others, its capabilities can go beyond building access. The OneCard also has the ability to track the movements of individual students, though Hill wrote that Public Safety does not do so unless in cases of emergency.

“In an emergency or a situation where there is a concern for the safety of a community member, the Director of Public Safety, in consultation with the Care & Concern Team, is authorized to review where an individual entered or swiped last,” Hill wrote.

Executive Director of Auxiliary Services Anthony Coschignano hopes to expand the services of the OneCard to ensure greater security on campus.  

“Ultimately, the plan for OneCard is to have all campus buildings online. This helps reduce the number of keys, increases the security by being able to ensure doors are not left unlocked, and provides a way for students to keep track of multiple services in one, easy place,” Coschignano wrote in an email.

In addition, Coschignano sees the OneCard being tied into other systems, such as SEPTA,  as well as the OneCard offering a more comprehensive set of services in the future.

“We are still in the process of adding functionality to the OneCard program. As this evolves, students will eventually have one card that will keep track of a wide variety of services in one place,” Coschignano said.

The OneCard and its expansive role on campus indicate that it will continue to remain a part of the lives of Swarthmore students.

Revamped Paces Cafe hopeful for greater customer satisfaction

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For the past couple semesters, Paces Cafe has been rapidly changing its policies to be more tailored to the students. This semester, it has continued updating by increasing OneCard access, expanding its staff, and customizing its menu.

For instance, the second semester of the 2016-2017 calendar year saw the cafe introduce the OneCard as a new method of payment. However, the OneCard plan for Paces was unique in that they could only accept Swat Points — which are points used in the Ville — in bundles of $10. Claire Conley ’20, a second-year short order cook, and other members of Paces saw that this was a problem because students were often forced to spend more money if they wanted to use their OneCards.

“At the beginning of Paces last spring, [we] could only take Ville Points in bundles of $10. This led to a lot of frustration as not many people want to be forced into paying $10 if they really only want an Italian soda,” Conley said.

In response, Paces compromised with administration to introduce $5 bundles as well, but this put pressure on Paces instead. Conley said that in order for Paces to sell food last year in bundles of $5 or $10, food items had to be very overpriced or underpriced. However, Conley noted that the transition to the OneCard made the cafe much more accessible and popular to students.

Cindy Li ’20 is one such students who was attracted by the new OneCard option.

“I had never been to Paces until last spring when they started offering the OneCard. However, I found it difficult to go often because I had to spend a certain amount of money each time,” Li said.

To make the OneCard more usable and appealing, Ahmad Shaban ’19, the head director at Paces Cafe, worked over the summer to make key changes to improve customer satisfaction.

We no longer accept cash, but we take Swat Points (off-campus points) and Garnet Cash. This change is helpful because we no longer have to worry about the process of cash handling, and instead, we can focus on the operation. We are happy with this change because now more students can come to Paces and enjoy the beautiful space, the great food and drinks, and the warm, cheerful atmosphere that our staff creates,” Shaban wrote in an email. Paces has already seen a spike in sales this year after the adoption of the new OneCard plan.

Another notable change is that Paces hired an extra barista for every night to cut down the waiting time for food and drinks. Li and other customers said one of the main criticisms last year was that the orders were very backed up, and sometimes drinks and food would come out at totally different times.

“I know as someone who has worked some very busy shifts [that] the second barista is essential. Milkshakes are [difficult] to make, super messy and ingredient heavy,” said Conley. Hiring a barista also allowed other cooks to specialize in their own areas of food; this allows both drinks and food to be ready more quickly.

Li also vouched for this improvement.

“The time for the food to come out this year is definitely faster compared to last year, but it’s still pretty slow. Also, Paces has only been open for several weeks this year so I think once the opening week crowd disappears in a bit, the food will come out even faster,” she said.

The last significant change is the menu itself. Paces wants to introduce more food and drink options. One way they are doing this is by serving vegetarian and vegan options. Paces also hired Henry Han ’20, an experienced former chef to help with menu decisions.

“He makes sure that everything is running smoothly each night, but as a former chef himself, he wants to talk with the people that work at Paces about sprucing up the menu. I am super excited about this, because one of my favorite things that Paces does is specials,” Conley said.

These three physical changes focus not only on improving the customer experience but also the worker experience. Conley hopes that an increase in customers will bring in enough revenue to pay the workers more.

“Another goal is to eventually make a profit to the point where they can pay the workers and be independent of the college. Right now our revenue covers the cost of food, but we don’t make enough money to pay our workers hourly wages,” Conley said.

Paces continues to take student feedback to help improve the experience. It will be exciting to see how the cafe will continue to change in the future.

Paces reopens with new OneCard vendor status

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The beginning of March came with the long-awaited reopening of student-run Paces Cafe. On March 12, the cafe resumed operating at full capacity after undergoing an audit, which was resolved in late February.

According to a previously published Phoenix article, Paces was under audit because of its old bookkeeping practices and for accepting cash as a form of payment. The cafe reopened as a newly authorized OneCard vendor, a development that has been a longstanding desire of students.

Executive Director of Auxiliary Services Anthony Coschignano explained why Paces was added to the OneCard program.

After the audit was completed it was determined that solely accepting OneCard would be best for the program as it would make access and tracking the simplest for all involved to the program,” he said.

Raffaella Luzi Stoutland ’17, the Head Director of Paces, explained what spurred the decision to become a OneCard vendor.

“The biggest challenge was just competing with all the other businesses that were put on the OneCard. While before we were competing almost on the same level with them because we were both taking cash, once they could accept Points we were pretty far behind in terms of marketability. We weren’t very appealing to people who could use their Points elsewhere,” she said.

The move to OneCard, as observed by barista Arka Rao ’18, has proved to be successful in attracting customers. Rao, who has worked at Paces every spring since his freshman year, noticed a significant change.

The OneCard has definitely brought more traffic as a whole. My sophomore year as a barista was certainly less busy than now. The first day I worked this semester, March 12, was somewhat busy but manageable since there’s two baristas during each shift now, and the options were restricted to only $10 deals. However, my second day, March 20, was super busy for almost the entire time. The other Monday night barista and I made more drinks combined than I’ve personally ever seen in one night,” he said.

Paces’ status as a OneCard vendor is tied to the fact that they no longer accept cash or credit cards for purchases. Coschignano briefly mentioned the change made in regards to this restriction.

“Transactions as a part of Paces opening are set to a one-time dollar limit per transaction, and that limit may change based on activity and special events,” he said.

This alludes specifically to the temporary practice of capping transactions at $10 upon the initial reopening. The cap was comparable to Essie’s Late Nite Snack option, where a meal swipe can be used in transaction up to a maximum of $7. However, Paces’s system was organized such that any transaction made would be an automatic deduction of $10 off of one’s Swat Points, and that unlike Essie’s, meals cannot be used nor could the transaction cap be changed.

“Basically, you can only swipe $10 at a time. That’s the biggest change for our consumers. We’ve set up combos that people can choose from in order to reach the $10 value. It’s the same menu, it’s now just that the way you buy from it is a bit more restricted,” Stoutland explained.

With all of the positivity surrounding Paces’ move to OneCard, there are challenges that may befall the cafe. For example, since Paces exclusively accepts Swat points, the cafe runs the risk of being inaccessible to students when they start running low on Points during the latter part of a semester. Stoutland does acknowledge the possibility that issues like this that may arise.

“One challenge that we thought about what people off campus who don’t have a meal plan: could they come to Paces at all? It’s not in the books yet to accept cash at all at the moment, but you can always put cash onto your OneCard. Just like you could before, you can load your card with money. The challenge would be to remind people that that is an option if they really want to come to Paces and are out of points,” she said.

The $10 price cap, too, is an issue of salience as Stoutland explained.

“The price cap is also a challenge, both for us and for customers, since people don’t always want to spend $10. For us, it does skew consumer trends a little bit because we don’t necessarily know what people want to order; we only know what they would order if they had to spend $10. The challenges can be overcome though,” she said.

However, the price cap, though it presented challenges, was the most realistic for the cafe to cover their costs.

“Our main idea was to try to cover food costs as best as possible while giving the highest range of options with the cap. Five dollars or $10 were our two options; with $5, it doesn’t quite cover the cost of sandwiches in the real world. While we used to charge $5 in cash, once we got the OneCard it was important for us to actually charge what the food item was worth, and it’s closer to $6 or $7 … We really wanted something based on our milkshake price that could either be singles or doubles. With $10, you could really get items that evened out pretty well … it was our first try, so it’s not perfect,” Stoutland explained.

The cap was not long-lived. Paces was open for eight days with the $10 cap before the announcement was made that all items on the menu were now $5. Rao observed that students seemed to be reacting positively to the switch.

“The change to $5 options (and the free drink refills) seems to be a popular decision and a good incentive for sure. I think it’s a good change and a sign of the hard work our managers have been putting in, and these decisions have been marked with successes already,” he said.

Another question was raised concerning the type of Points to be used at Paces. The cafe only accepts Swat Points, meaning that it has the technical designation as an off-campus vendor. Stoutland explained that this was the best option for the direction of Paces.

The thing with this is that the Ville [Swat] Points allows us to be autonomous. Points on campus are for dining services because of the way they’re processed and because of the fund they’re coming out of. Because we don’t want to be dining services, we want to be something independent, and we want to remain student run and student involved, we’re on the Ville [Swat] Points,” she said.

The future of Paces looks bright, as student workers maintain positive outlooks on the new changes. Henry Han ’20, one of Paces’ two chefs, spoke about his expectations for future service.

“Since switching to the OneCard, we have had a drastic increase in customers. As we advertise more and as all the workers become acclimated to the new system, I expect that our food will be served faster and will be of even higher quality. I also think our customer base will grow a lot more,” he said.

Rao, too, believes that Pace’s new format does good for the business and maintains that challenges can be overcome.

“I definitely think the current format of Paces has a lot of advantages. Having a second barista (shoutout Sergio) really helps us be efficient with drinks, which are turning out to be some of the most popular items on the menu. The most salient challenge that I can imagine would be dealing with the increased traffic, but I believe it’s in our capacity to handle more customers than before. I’m really happy for the team, especially the managers, since Paces is already super popular and I hope it stays that way. It’s great to see the results of everyone’s hard work so soon. I’m looking forward to working the rest of the semester!” he said.

From a management perspective, Stoutland spoke brightly about Paces and what it means to those who frequent it.

Students are really excited to be working at Paces, to have Paces again as an option. I think it’s mostly been morally really great, so even if management is still working out kinks on how to stay open and what to do about that, at least we have it [Paces],” she said.

With the remaining six weeks in the semester, Paces will learn how to navigate its new OneCard transaction policy, as well as the changes made to the menu and format of service. Although it seems that the new additions have been received smoothly, it remains to be seen if the cafe will maintain the increased levels of traffic it has been experiencing.

 

Pending Audit Results, Paces Cafe Slated to Reopen

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Paces Cafe, which has been closed since the end of the fall 2016 semester due to an auditing process conducted by the Business Office to investigate Paces’ business practices, is expecting to reopen after spring break as a member of the OneCard Program.

According to Raffaella Luzi Stoutland ’17, the Head Director of Paces, this audit has been ongoing throughout the spring semester and will be completed by Feb. 27.

“[The audit is due to] issues the Business Office had with the handling of cash at Paces, with bookkeeping practices, and with receipt tracking. … [Paces] is basically undergoing some investigations into the practices currently, but more importantly, putting in processes that we can follow in the future,” Stoutland said.

Vice President for Finance and Administration Gregory Brown confirmed Wednesday, Feb. 15 that Paces is now currently on the right track of reopening.

“We had a very productive meeting [Monday] afternoon with the Paces leadership team, and I believe we’re on a good path to a successful re-opening of Paces later this semester,” said Brown.

The Paces staff has been working with the college administration since the end of last semester to work out the trajectory of the cafe. Stoutland met with Brown this Tuesday, and discussed future plans as well as the relation of the cafe to the Visioning Process Report of the college.

The report, released this month, asserts that “strategies will be implemented through capital planning projects” to help “inspire students to pursue their passions and provide support their efforts to achieve a reasonable equilibrium between academic and co-curricular pursuits.”

Stoutland elaborated on Paces’ plan of reopening after spring break.

“We’re looking at a tentative opening after spring break. We are reworking our financial and accounting procedures and we are hoping to set up some long term plans that integrate Paces into the Visioning Process of Swarthmore,” Stoutland said.

Part of these new financial procedures is the authorization of the use of OneCard at the cafe. To become part of the newly incorporated OneCard program this year, businesses must meet specific financial standards in order to be a part.

“Paces asked to join the program, and as a result of their request, we are completing a review of their business practices.  During the course of the review, we identified several areas of concern regarding the need to improve their business practices, and we are working with Paces to resolve the open issues,” said the Director of Auxiliary Services, Anthony Coschignano.

According to Coschignano, any merchant looking to join the program must undergo a successful review process, and agree to specific record-keeping and data security standards.

In order to meet these standards, Stoutland and the Paces leadership have been working with the OneCard office and administration to present business plans and financial projections. After a semester of screening, Paces will be accepting SwatPoints on OneCard in the near future.

“It looks like the only way we would open will be on OneCard without taking out any cash or credit … should we open after spring break, it will be on OneCard, and in the future, Paces will probably be accepting OneCard,” Stoutland said.

According to Stoutland, the administration has been supportive in the audit and the OneCard authorization, though sometimes effective communication has been lacking.

“It looks like Paces though should probably have more direction coming from dining services and OneCard and coming from the business office. So it’s not that we haven’t had support, I just think that the way that the support has been structured hasn’t always been the most productive … Mostly it’s just been miscommunications and circumvent[ive] communications … so the support is there, but it just really wasn’t reaching us,” said Stoutland.

As a member of the 2016 orientation committee, Luke Barbano ’18 suggested that students would want Paces to be on OneCard during their OneCard briefing, and he was surprised with the administration’s perplexing astonishment. As a frequenter of Paces, he also witnessed the tedious process that Paces had to go through to get the authorization.

The OneCard office has made Paces go in order to demonstrate its viability as a profitable enterprise (i.e. requesting seemingly endless revisions of business plans, countless budget proposals,  profit projections that were nearly impossible to make, etc.) It seemed like an unnecessary number of hoops to jump through given Paces’s seemingly low stakes (it’s not a multinational corporation) and the ease with which OneCard capabilities can be granted (I’m sure there’s some bureaucratic administrative red tape to deal with but it’s not rocket science),” wrote Barbano in his email.

Although Paces is an on-campus organization, its position on the OneCard will be with SwatPoints, the Points that are used in the Ville, rather than regular Points which are used at other on-campus dining options. This structural difference is because Paces is run by students rather than the college’s dining services.

“We are kinda in this weird limbo place where we are clearly part of the Swarthmore College [community], … but they’re sort of treating us like an outside partner of Swarthmore College,” Stoutland said.

Stoutland further explained Paces’ awkward position as a student-run business on campus and how that aspect has impacted on its OneCard authorization.

“We’re student-run, and in that sense, we aren’t part of the dining services, so we wouldn’t be part of the Points and meal points. We’ll be part of the new part of OneCard, but we’re also not exactly an established business, so there’s a lot of checks and balances they wanted us to go through that I don’t think the other businesses went through,” Stoutland said.  

Despite the long process of authorizing it, Stoutland believes that the OneCard is a good addition because it makes the business more accessible.

“[We] struggle to keep prices as low as possible, and much lower than they would’ve been in the normal market, because we really want people to have access to Paces, and OneCard is really the solution that no matter what someone’s personal finances are, they can still experience the space where all students should be experiencing, and the food is really good,” Stoutland said.

When asked about Paces’ next step, Stoutland was very optimistic and said the biggest focus for Paces’ right now was to reopen as soon as possible.

“We’re looking at what accounting practices we’re putting in place […] in terms of where we get our food and where we get our supplies, also sustainability practices, a lot of our stuff is compostable so we’re just double-checking that everything can be composted. Our main goal is to reopen as soon as possible this semester, like I said, soon still means probably weeks so, and then to figure out what it means for Paces to be open in the long term as well,” said Stoutland.

Luke Barbano believes that OneCard is also going to help Paces compete with other restaurants and cafes on campus and in the Ville with the growing competition with other restaurants and cafes on campus and in the Ville, since most of them already have OneCard.

“One only needs to look to the Ville merchants to see how OneCard has dramatically increased their business traffic. […] Given the student body’s widespread enthusiasm for Paces, the nearly excessive number of Points that accompany any of the currently offered meal plan options, the cafe’s convenience, and its charming novelty, it’s reasonable to expect that Paces would experience a similar boost in business. They will make a lot of money,” Barbano said.

After a nearly clear path to reopening, managers at Paces and some students see the cafe as a viable place of business and one for students to enjoy on campus given that the OneCard becomes a part of the cafe’s program.

Impacts of OneCard changes felt on and off campus

in Around Campus/News by

Fall 2016 marked the first semester of expanded meal plans that include Swat Points for use in the Ville. For the first time in Swarthmore’s history students now have the option to use their meal plans to eat at Aria, Bamboo Bistro, Dunkin Donuts, Hobbs Coffee, Occasionally Yours, Renato Pizzeria, Vicky’s Place, and the Co-Op giving students more freedom than in previous years to choose where they eat. First year students, however, have less freedom than the rest of the student body. This restriction, decided without student input, has drawn some criticism from members of the student body. The changes have also increased business for Ville vendors, as it is easier than ever for students to access the restaurants in the borough of Swarthmore.

For students, especially first years, the OneCard has brought wider dining choices as well as some challenges. The four plans having varying proportions of meals to Points, points for use at on-campus locations, and Swat Points, points for use at off-campus locations. Some plans have more meals than points, and others with less meals but more points. First years have only two meal plan options, the SWAT Plan and the Garnet Plan. The SWAT plan has unlimited meal swipes that can be used at Sharples and Essie Mae’s, as well as 150 Points and 150 Swat Points. The Garnet Plan gives students 275 meals per semester as well as 300 Points and 200 Swat Points. Towards the end of the semester, some students began to run out of Points and Swat Points. For first year student Aditya Jayakrishnan ’20, staying on campus for Fall Break was a large factor in running out of Points.

“Thrice a week last semester, I didn’t have enough time to get to Sharples and back for lunch, … [so] I resorted to just eating at the coffee bar instead. That, coupled with the occasional trip to the Ville, and the fact that I had to stay on campus over Fall Break and use my Points in the Ville and at Essie’s meant that my Points were gone soon after Fall Break,” he said.

Jayakrishnan was on the Garnet Plan, the most point-heavy plan available to first year students. For the second semester, first years have the same two options, potentially preventing them from choosing the meal plan that would best suits their needs. The administration, represented by Dean of Students Liz Braun, Executive Director of Auxiliary Services Anthony Coschignano, and Vice President for Finance and Administration Greg Brown said that first years have always had the least choice in meal plans, and that the Sharples experience was important for for first years.

“We want Sharples to remain the main point of contact for first year students,” Braun said. The administration also cited budget concerns and stability as reasons for keeping first years limited to two different plans, as successfully operating Sharples hinges on being able to accurately estimate the number of students at each meal. While first years were more limited than other class years, the administration noted that there was an increase in flexibility for all class years in terms of dining options with the addition of Swat Points, as well as that the plans are blocked for the entire semester rather than weekly.

The decision for first year students to not be able to access to have all the plans in the second semester has limited students. The decision mirrors the college’s housing policy, which is that first year students are required to live on campus.

Ming Ray Xu ’20 switched from the Swat Plan to the Garnet Plan, and felt that students should be allowed more autonomy in choosing their meal plans.

“The meal plan is unnecessarily restricted, a recommendation from the college would be fine. I understand that the administration wants us to not starve at the end of the semester, but I have access to data about how many meals I eat in a semester, the OneCard system lets you see that,” he said. Students can access information about their balances, including number of remaining meals, Points, and Swat Points by going to the OneCard center on The Dash. With this information available, students, including first years, have access to the knowledge they need to select the meal plan that best suits their habits for the following semester.

In addition to giving students more options for dining, the OneCard has had effects on Ville vendors as well. The ability to use Points in the Ville makes off-campus eateries more economically accessible, and restaurants in Swarthmore have noticed a considerable uptick in business from students. Dunkin’ Donuts employee Manmeet Kaur estimates that the coffee and doughnut shop has about 130 dollars in OneCard transactions on an average weekday.

“It was pretty consistent throughout the semester … and [we have] 20 times, 30 times more students than what we used to get,” said Richardson. The expansion of the meal plan into the Ville has also increased social interaction between students and members of the Ville.

“I’m very happy with the college actually taking an interest in working with merchants, it’s a win-win for everybody […] it’s not a dollar and cents thing to me as much as it is adding to the vibrancy […] of the downtown community […] it adds to the character of the town, having more students here,” Richardson continued. The new meal plans have served as a bridge between the college community and the greater Swarthmore community and has made it easier for students to break the so-called Swat bubble. Merchants in the Ville have not only noticed the increase in students, but are also learning more about their purchase patterns.

“Our most popular items are deli [items] […] sandwiches […] prepared foods […] snacks and beverages.” She went on to say that the Co-Op “has begun to have active discussions about ways to offer a premium hot pizza at the Co-Op,” said Dawn Betts, an employee at the Co-Op. The potential for the Co-Op to expand their options shows both that the OneCard has had a considerable effect on students making purchases in the Ville as well as vendors’ interest in being a part of student life.

However, the pattern of students primarily purchasing foods that are pre-cooked or pre-prepared contrasts with the vision the administration has for New PPR. The possibility of a new plan just for students in New PPR would have less meals and more points than current meal plans since the dorm includes plans for kitchens. Braun indicated that she envisioned smaller communities within the residence hall where students would still eat communally.

The OneCard and the new meal plans have been met with popularity by both students and merchants, with the chief complaint coming from students who cannot access the full flexibility of the plans. Minor changes to the meal plans are expected from the college as more data on how, when, and where plans are used is collected from its first year of use. OneCard’s successful roll out and implementation have had clear benefits for both students and the town of Swarthmore.

Deliciously Yours, Just Bring OneCard

in Campus Journal by

Over last semester, eating in the Ville for my reviews has become one of my favorite things to do. As a self-proclaimed homebody, I’m far more likely to go to Sharples for its convenience and comfort than I am to venture out to try a new restaurant in the Ville. Every other week, I have discovered something new in the town of Swarthmore that has enhanced my experience as a first-year student. On my trip to Occasionally Yours, I considered that this meal was likely to be the last one I ate in the Ville with the purpose of writing a Phoenix review. The stakes were high for the restaurant, and I was yet to be disappointed by a meal in the Ville.

The restaurant is bright, and the natural light let in by the large storefront window is enhanced by the white furniture inside. The walls are painted a similar bright white on the bottom two-thirds, but a shelf serves as a bold transition to deep-green. As I sat in Occasionally Yours and looked around the room, I felt as if I was not in a restaurant, but rather having meal in someone’s home. The deep hue of the top portion creates the same cozy vibe as the living room in my grandparent’s home, and the items sitting on the shelf made me feel as if I had been transported back to a childhood memory. The family photos displayed next to vintage-appearing appliances created a warm ambiance found at the intersection of an old farmhouse and modern design. The home-ish atmosphere was amplified by the ease at which patrons held conversations across the small dining room, which holds two rows of tables on the sides of the restaurant that were too close together. Despite the annoyance of bumping into the tables while getting in and out of my seat, I appreciated the cozy atmosphere that the furniture arrangement provided. A basket of children’s books in the window indicated that children were welcome in the restaurant, and seeing my sister’s favorite titles reminded me of home. Casual yet classic, crowded and comfortable, the contradictions in Occasionally Yours provide an ambiance that is inviting as well as informal.

Food is at the core of any dining experience, and Occasionally Yours delivers on the unwritten but universal promise to serve a good meal that is at the nexus of the food service industry. Its menu features both basic staples as well as certain adventurous specials, from grilled cheese to meatloaf to lasagna, many will find that Occasionally Yours has their favorite meal from growing up, but that it takes few culinary risks as well. The Carolina pulled pork sandwich, a popular special, was a pleasant surprise. My expectations for barbeque decrease as the latitude increases, but the sandwich was warm and tender. Sweet flavors permeated the meat as I had my preconceived notions of northern pulled pork gently shattered. The French bun that enveloped the pork was crispy on the outside but was fluffy and soft on the inside, adding additional textures that made the sandwich a multidimensional dish. I had potato salad on the side, but its cool flavors and tangy undertones turned it into a main event. Celery intermingled with the soft chunks of potato and provided a much needed crunch. The potato salad was a perfect companion to the pulled pork as its savory flavors complimented the sandwich but its cool temperature and flavor notes made it a unique part of the meal.  

To complete my meal, I drank lemonade and had a pastry for dessert. The lemonade was sweet and light, but was almost underwhelming. The close border between refreshing and boring was just enough to remind me of summer, but the flavors were not powerful enough to make me yearn to have hot weather again. A strawberry crumb bar was the last part of the meal, and the soft doughy bottom overpowered the strawberry that peeked its way out from under the crumb top. The dessert had good flavors that were overpowered by an amount of bar that was not balanced by a fair proportion of strawberry and crumb. The meal served at Occasionally Yours was well made, and delivered on my expectation of a hearty meal.

The experience provided by Occasionally Yours is slightly cramped but is welcoming and a good place to take friends to get comfort food at the end of a long week. Their meals are tasty, and the individual dishes provide a range of flavors that are both appetizing and interesting. Just a short walk past the train station, the restaurant is an inviting way to add more variety into one’s dining choices while staying in one’s culinary comfort zone. Occasionally Yours has good food and a comfortable atmosphere and is a great spot to get a meal, but is the restaurant version of your childhood bedroom: you would be missing out if you stayed there your whole life and never branched out, but it’s really good to go back occasionally.

Endless Possibilities, Aisle One

in Around Campus/Campus Journal by

They say ignorance is bliss. They’re wrong. I’ve been at Swarthmore for nearly four months and I’m here to tell you, that when I went to the Co-Op for the first time on a sunny afternoon in late November and, rid of my ignorance, I experienced true bliss. There’s something magical about the Co-Op. I didn’t realize how large it was from just seeing it from the outside, and was amazed to see a grocery store — I had imagined something of an earthy corner store. As I walked down the aisles, I realized that despite not being a restaurant, the Co-Op has ambiance. The lighting is bright, but still romantic enough that you will fall in love with the refrigerator full of fancy cheese. The aisles are cozy and the foods stocking the shelves beam radiance and joy. The ice cream lines part of the side wall and filled me with a unique mix of hunger and regret. The favorite dessert of our vice president and esteemed Delawarean, Joe Biden, has just been sitting in the Co-Op waiting to be purchased with my leftover Swat Points. I wondered how I could have missed everything that the Co-Op has to offer, from my favorite grocery items like ice cream to prepared foods like sushi and paninis. The breadth of options gives the Co-Op a unique vibe that feels like the world’s possibilities are endless.

As a very serious amateur food critic, I had internally debated the merit of reviewing the Co-Op. I realized that it was not a restaurant, but I had heard excellent things about their paninis. I wondered, if an establishment sold soap and birthday cards in addition to their food, did it fit the criteria for this series? I wondered, until I ate. I had a panini, cleverly named “The Gobbler of Fire”. All of the Co-Ops signature paninis and sandwiches have witty names, and would be more accurately named pun-inis. From ordering the Gobbler, a sandwich with turkey, arugula, red onions, a balsamic sauce made in-house, and provolone cheese, to receiving it, I spent nearly ten minutes waiting for my lunch. Well worth the wait, the Gobbler of Fire is delicious. The turkey is savory and exceeded my expectations in terms of its flavor and overall quality. The red onions gave the sandwich tang that was complimented well by the honey balsamic sauce. The panini was what I really want Thanksgiving to taste like. It had warm flavors that work together to provide a layered experience. I personally rank turkey as my least favorite deli meat, but the Co-Op transforms it from an overrated meat into an eating event well worth the walk from campus.

In addition to prepared foods perfect for any meal of the day, the Co-Op is the best place to stock up on snacks. When I saw the pepperoni sitting under the glass at the deli counter, I thought I was having anticipatory meat sweats. It turned out I had just been wearing my coat indoors for too long, but nonetheless, I was ready to have some quality pepperoni in my life. Much of the Co-Op’s meat, including the pepperoni, comes from Applegate Farms, a company whose meat is antibiotic free, GMO free, rBGH free, organic, and grass-fed. While the benefits of some of those specifications is debatable, the meat at the Co-Op is delicious and seems to match the progressive tastes of the Swarthmore clientele. Upon arriving back at my dorm and opening up the meat I had purchased, I was pleased. The pepperoni has the perfect overtones of heat and the classic zesty taste of the pork and beef combination. I also picked up hummus and pita chips while at the Co-Op, and was highly impressed with the hummus carried by the Co-Op. Coming in several flavors, the garlic variety might border on too garlic-y for some, but I’m a firm believer that there’s no such thing as too much garlic.

The Co-Op is a great place to get lunch, dinner, snacks, and anything in between. It’s also good for getting non-food items like shampoo. The versatility of the Co-Op is what makes it one of the best uses of Swat points.  Not only is it possible to get a hot lunch to take back to campus, but you can also get peanut butter and other basics without having to go all the way to Target or have a friendly relative send them through the mail. The Co-Op is by far the most useful addition to the OneCard. Although it offers a very limited menu of cooked food, the wide variety of other items and the ability to stock up on items like fresh vegetables and assorted cheeses means that the Co-Op is not just a store. The Co-Op is an institution that has inspired my culinary optimism and given me both the snacks and the hope to get through the rest of the semester.

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