Dining Services Offers New Options for Students
Issue   |   Wed, 02/27/2013 - 00:32

After an overwhelmingly positive response to its two-week trial this fall, Grab-N-Go started this Monday, Feb. 25 as a permanent program. Running out of Schwemm’s Cafe, Grab-N-Go will be open 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m., extending the lunch period option for students by half an hour, Monday through Friday during class and exam periods. The program accommodates student meal plans, point plans and cash transactions so student and non-students can participate. Students must choose between Grab-N-Go and Valentine for lunch, and if they eat in one location they will not be able to eat in the other during the lunch period.

Already, the program has drawn large numbers of students and non-student customers.

“I’m very please with the response,” said Charlie Thompson, Director of Dining Services. “On Monday, Grab-N-Go served 500 people, and 536 people chose it on Tuesday, which is quite amazing against hamburgers. With hamburgers in Val I thought that would draw more away from it, but it’s great.”

The Grab-N-Go program will incorporate a total of five items. Customers will be able to choose an entrée sandwich or salad, a beverage and three additional sides of their choice. The menu will include a set of core items with vegetarian and gluten free options, with additional items rotating in a two-week cycle. The core item entrees include grilled chicken Caesar salad, Garden Vegetables and Hummus with Pita, Roast Turkey with Aged White Cheddar on a Multigrain Roll, Mediterranean Vegetable Wrap and a Gluten Free Turkey Sandwich on Udi’s Multigrain Bread.

Core side choices will be seasonal fruit, applesauce, chocolate chip cookies, granola bars and a variety of chips. Core beverages will be coke products, bottled water, coffee, decaffeinated coffee, milk and juice.

“Once we are a couple weeks into it we’ll start to assess, both in the core items and the daily rotation specials, what is selling and what’s not and tweak it. We’ll also factor in what we hear from our customers,” Thompson said. “So far it’s a little early to tell. It seems everything we’ve produced as far as sandwiches and salads go have been well received, some a little more well than others, and we’ll tweak that.”

Thompson also stated that the rotating options could change throughout the year, and students should look at the additional rotating items menu on the Dining Service website.

“Obviously we’ll make some changes, if not seasonally, at least every year so that it’s not exactly the same for those returning,” Thompson said.

Due to Grab-N-Go’s location in Schwemm’s, Schwemm’s will now not open till its evening service starts 4:30 p.m., and the previous lunch Schwemm’s menu will not be available during the Grab-N-Go program.

“We decided to choose Schwemm’s because in many of the comment cards we received after the two week trial period students mentioned that they really liked it in Keefe, because it was centrally located,” Thompson said. “Already we’ve heard from some students who are concerned about the lack of food options between 2:30 p.m. and 4: 30 p.m. because of the closing down of Grab-N-Go at 2:30 p.m. and not having food available at Schwemm’s till 4:30 p.m. when the Schwemm’s evening program begins. Though the closing is necessary to clean up and reorganize, if we can reduce that window we will. If we can reopen at 4 p.m. instead of 4:30 p.m., we will do that.”

Dining Services is also looking into other options to fill the 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. gap.

“What we’ve done starting Tuesday afternoon is that Monday through Friday we will bring some of the sandwiches and salads that we are preparing for Grab-N-Go, and bring them to Frost Café to be available for sale at the same cost that it is at the Grab-N-Go,” Thompson said.

Dinning Services has also decided to extend Valentine dinner hours to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, offering a more limited menu in the extra hour. The extended hours will start next week and will follow class and exam schedules.
“Again, we decided that due to student feedback. We pride ourselves on having a pretty good connection with students in many different ways, whether it be emails, committees or one-on-ones, I think we have a reputation of being approachable. So we gathered a lot of information just through conversation and knowing class schedules, athletic schedules and all the activities students are involved in. We see it at 7:30 p.m. when people are rushing in as the gate closes hoping that there is food.” Thompson said. “So again, it was based on student input, what they feel the program should look like, and it’s very reasonable. The administration was also supportive of it.”

Thompson is hoping that Grab-N-Go and extending Valentine Dining Hall hours will make the student dining experience more enjoyable.

“The whole thing with Grab-N-Go and the extended Val hours is that it’s an effort to increase the pleasure of your dining experience so people don’t feel as rushed,” Thompson said. “Not only is Grab-N-Go providing a service to students going there, but it is pulling out people from that rush lunch period, which is going to make the dining experience much more enjoyable for those who go to Val, so it’s really two-fold. Also, with the extension of Val hours at dinner, we know there has been a need, we know it has sometimes caused stress for students, and it’s reasonable to do. I’m very excited because I know it will be very helpful.”

Dining Services encourages students to supply them with feedback on their new programs.

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Comments
Bettina Jungen (not verified) says:
Wed, 03/06/2013 - 15:54

Of course it's very convenient to grab some food and go wherever you like...

There are a few things, however, which are worth considering. One of them is waste: Amherst wants to be the recycling champion—a laudable goal. This, however, shouldn’t mean that we have to produce more waste in order to be able to recycle more. The Grab-N-Go concept perverts the intention of being a sustainable and ecologically aware campus community. Grab-N-Go comes with so much additional waste (dishes, lids, utensils, bags…), even if dishes and utensils are compostable, their production and recycling requires a significant amount of resources.

The second concern is about the “go”: Although I understand every student who is tired of Val after a while, I firmly believe in the benefits—health and social—of having a relaxed meal, sitting at a table. Actually, cooking and eating together can contribute to a good campus culture, which has lately been intensively discussed. Cooking and eating shouldn’t be regarded as a waste of time compared to studying or engaging in extra curricular activities. In particular, I want to advocate for more own cooking instead of grabbing prepared meals. It’s so much fun and one learns a lot. The proverb “the way to a person's heart is through her/his stomach” exists for a good reason. This would require shared kitchens on campus, yes, but I’m convinced that the investment would be worth wile.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 03/13/2013 - 14:53

Bettina,

I agree that sitting down and sharing a relaxed meal with others is an integral part of college life and promotes campus culture. I would, however, point out that the "go" option gives student the option to save time eating if they need it. If a student has a midterm and wants to get in some last minute studying, picking up food from Keefe and "going " wherever you like is much more efficient than going to Val.

Your point on shared kitchens on campus is an important one that the College must address. While there are several dorms that have kitchens, the vast majority of those on campus do not. Shared kitchens are available in many dorms on other colleges across the country, and I believe the Amherst community could only benefit from adding them. With all the discussions on campus life recently, one I have heard frequently is that it is difficult for upperclassmen to interact with those they don't know in their upperclassmen dorms. Kitchens would not necessarily solve this problem, but they could mitigate the isolation of these dorms. Students volunteering to cook for those on their floor, dorm-wide events in the kitchen, and many other events could be staged to make kitchens an effective social lubricant.

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