On The Need for Greater Food Options

Over the past year, students have adjusted to changes in dining services at Swarthmore. At the beginning of the 2018-2019 academic year, Dining Services changed the hours of Essie Mae’s to close on weekends and at 9 p.m. on weeknights. At the same time, the student-run cafe was moved from Paces to Sharples and renamed. Students immediately indicated their unhappiness with these changes: a petition garnered over 450 signatures, prompting Dining Services to close Essie’s at 10:30 p.m. on weeknights instead. The Science Center Coffee Bar hours were also extended during this dining transition. However, there are still few sufficient on-campus meal options when Sharples is closed. 

Meanwhile, Crumb is open every day until midnight and is the only sit-down place to eat food on campus on the weekends after Sharples closes at 7 p.m. The Crumb has absorbed most of the business that would have otherwise gone to Essie’s. On Sunday nights after 10 p.m., when Essie’s and the Sci Center Coffee Bar are both closed, the Crumb is the only food option on campus. The Crumb is student-managed and student-run, so student workers must cope with sometimes overwhelming lines and more orders than their space is equipped to handle.

We at The Phoenix believe that the college should work to expand food options on campus, as well as make sure no dining areas are overrun with students. Dining services staff work extremely hard to feed students, and we appreciate their work. The shortening of Essie’s hours affected many staff members’ hours. It is essential that the college incorporates Dining Services staff’s opinions and needs into future dining options planning. It is also important to make sure the Crumb is not an intensely stressed work environment for students. Expanding the dining options must take into account the needs of both Crumb staff and dining services staff. Widening late-night food options requires top-down change.  

For many students, meal options after Sharples closes are essential. Students with commitments during those times, such as athletes, student workers, and students with evening classes may not be able to get to Sharples before it closes at 8 p.m. on weekdays or at 7 p.m. on weekends. The on-campus options when Sharples is closed are limited to the Crumb Café, Essie’s, and the Sci Center Coffee Bar. These options have variety, but do not necessarily offer complete meals that students sometimes need after hours. While the Sci Center Coffee Bar offers meals at lunch, they may not have any sushi or Chinese food left by dinnertime, leaving students to construct a meal from snack foods such as yogurt and muffins. These “meals” must be paid for with points rather than meal swipes, a restriction which makes them less accessible to first-years and others on swipe-heavy meal plans.  Furthermore, Crumb also does not serve full meals and students likewise often have to order multiple items to get enough food. On the weekends, particularly, it can be difficult to get a meal after 7 p.m.

We recognize that the college is currently working to remodel and expand Sharples, and hope that said changes will allow for more late-night meal options. Current students, however, cannot wait for years to have reliable access to on-campus meals after-hours; neither should the Crumb be expected to solely shoulder the burden of feeding students on weekend nights, nor should Essie’s staff have to cope with shortened hours. The college should prioritize late-night meal options now, for the sake of everyone on campus.

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