Dining services rolls out pilot programs

Dining services is initiating two pilot dining programs to address student concerns with the current college meal plan. The programs, which began on Monday, March 28, moved the Grab and Go option previously available in Clothier Hall to Sci 199, and added a To-Go meal option in Sharples. Both of these programs will last for a two-week trial period.

The first pilot program constitutes a change of location for the Grab and Go option from Clothier to the lobby outside of Sci 199. Grab and Go will continue to operate in the same fashion, which allows students to swipe for a meal between noon and 1:00 pm.

The second option allows students to carry out a to-go meal from Sharples, consisting of one clamshell and one drink cup. Students have to ask the Sharples cashier for a To-Go meal for one meal swipe equivalency, after which they leave their ID with the cashier and sign their name and time on the To-Go list by the entrance. Fifteen minutes are allotted for students to gather their meal, after which they sign out and collect their ID from the cashier. Students are allowed five To-Go meals per week, to be used during lunch or dinner.

This program is one outcome of the Dining Services Committee to address student concerns on the current meal program. The committee is a group of faculty and students that have been working throughout the semester, looking into concerns about hours, menus, and the meal plan. According to Linda McDougall, director of dining services, the committee identified the inconvenience of Grab and Go and crowding of Sharples during peak meal periods as two main problems. Class times often cause a lunch rush that leads to congestion in Sharples.

Executive director of auxiliary services Anthony Coschignano said that the change in location and the To-Go option in Sharples addressed overcrowding and moved the Grab and Go to a more convenient location for many students.

“As a committee we have discussed options that would help students with overcrowding, time constraints, and ease of convenience,” said Coschignano. “During our assessment of concerns we looked how to best serve our students, and we felt that bringing Grab and Go to where the majority of classes met during lunch would allow more students to participate.”

David Chen ’19 expressed skepticism about the change in location for Grab and Go and the overall accessibility for students not taking STEM classes. “I don’t think the majority of students are actually at Sci Center,” said Chen. “I think they are just accommodating lab students, because that is the time most of the labs are going to be starting.”

However, Coschignano insists that the take-out option in Sharples will provide a compromise for the changing location of Grab and Go.

“Since we moved the Grab and Go from Essie Mae’s, the To-Go option would be for the convenience of those students who have classes in the center of campus,” said Coschignano. “Also, the To-Go option allows students who need an option of a meal on the go [and do] not have the time to sit and eat.”

Chen, who is taking a class at Bryn Mawr, disagreed about the convenience of the To-go option in comparison to the lunch options at Bryn Mawr’s dining hall.

“At Bryn Mawr they have the same thing at the dining hall, where you grab a takeout box, but they don’t make you sign in or out,” said Chen. “I don’t see the point in signing in or out, especially at the lunch rush around 12:30. You won’t be able to make it in 15 minutes if everyone else goes at 12:30 because of the long lines.”

Students have also expressed that the pilot programs haven’t helped to alleviate the lunch rush in the two days they have been running. Romeo Luevano ’19 shared his view that the new To-Go option is not decreasing congestion in Sharples.

“I like the thought of it,” said Luevano. “However, the lunch rush is still the same anxiety-inducing time of the day that it has always been.”

Dining services will be evaluating student feedback to decide whether to keep the pilot programs in place. Depending on the overall response of the student body, the pilot programs may stay in place for the remainder of the semester, or even be expanded into next year.

“If the pilot programs achieve positive results, we would look to extend the program for the remainder of the semester and measure if it has continued success,” said Coschignano. “We will be examining overall usage of both options and also have asked students to write to us with their feedback.”

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