Last week, 777 different students went to the atrium of Keefe Campus Center to “grab” a bagged lunch and “go” to class. Although the menu changed daily, students could pick either an entrée sandwich/wrap or salad (one of which was a vegetarian item), choose three additional snacks — chips, pretzels, popcorn, fresh fruit or a dessert — and finally choose one beverage.
“The intent is to provide a product that will present fresh, made of quality, ingredients with a good perceived value from our students,” said Jeremy Roush, Amherst College’s Executive Chef.
Amherst Dining Services has “been researching [the Grab-N-Go] program on and off as to what other schools are doing,” said Charles Thompson, Director of Amherst Dining Services.
After the College heard from students that there was an interest in this type of program, the Grab-N-Go trial period made its debut.
“We realize that the volume of students, dining at specific times and the size of Valentine can create challenges with a student’s schedule, especially at lunch,” Roush said.
In the past, Dining Services redesigned the service areas, stations and menus in an attempt to tackle of problem of long lines.
“Now the Grab-N-Go concept may provide us another opportunity to help with the issue,” Roush said, “so the ability to analyze it is very valuable.”
Dining Services has also considered the packaging of the lunches during the Grab-N-Go trial period.
“It was important to us too that we limit ‘packaging’ and provide a container that is environmentally responsible. We were able to find packaging supplies that are fully compostable and can support a multitude of menu items,” Roush said.
So far, students have responded positively to the test period, commenting on both the great food and the convenience of the program.
“I thought the food was great, and it was really convenient,” Jaya Tripathi ’14 said.
“I tried Grab-N-Go on Thursday and had a really delicious salad,” sophomore Idalia Friedson said. “ It was also quicker than Val is during rush periods. I think it’s a great option for those who don’t have time to sit down for lunch during the week.”
But even for those who do have time to sit down and eat lunch, the Grab-N-Go program allowed students to enjoy their lunch outside of Val.
“I really enjoyed the Grab-N-Go option because I could finish an essay as I ate lunch. It’s also nice because it gives us the option to eat lunch outside,” senior Kristen Moulton said.
The “Grab-N-Go” lunch trial period will end this Thursday, Oct. 25. To determine its future, Dining Services will review collected data and student comments and feedback. “How has this test program affected students’ schedules? Has it been helpful in some way? How has this program affected the lines during lunch in Val?” are questions that Thompson hopes the data will reveal.
“If a Grab-N-Go program were to become a reality, the menu choices would probably be expanded but structured similarly; you would have a choice of entrée and then a choice of a certain number of accompanying items,” Thompson said.
However, if the program were to move forward, the location would not remain in the atrium of Keefe, which was kindly loaned to Dining Services by Dean Hannah Fatemi for the test period.
Although Thompson noted “several extra labor hours per day have been required by our current staff in order to conduct this test,” he believes the enthusiasm from the students might be worth the extra time.