Valentine Dining Hall Goes Trayless to Mixed Opinions
Issue   |   Wed, 01/25/2017 - 00:05
Photo courtesy of Sarah Wishloff ‘19
Dining Services worked with the Office of Sustainability and Green Amherst Project to review student feedback on discontinuing the use of trays. Changes were implemented during the second week of interterm.

Valentine Dining Hall discarded the usage of trays for the first time during the second week of interterm after over 650 students signed a petition organized by the Green Amherst Project (GAP) asking the dining hall to conserve water by going trayless.

GAP, a student-run organization, worked with the Office of Sustainability and Dining Services to assess student input and “determine the feasibility” of transitioning to a trayless dining hall, according to a statement on the college’s website. They provided opportunities for students to provide feedback in person and through a written suggestion box.

“It will seriously increase Val’s financial flexibility, because of the water we’ll save and decreased food waste,” said Annabelle Gary ’20, a member of GAP. “We’ll have more money to spend on higher quality foods, [such as] fresh fruit or locally sourced meat. It’s also very good for the environment.”

Using feedback from more than 600 students, Valentine Dining Hall pledged to implement changes to “facilitate trayless dining,” said the college in its statement. Silverware dispensers have been added to the front, back and upstairs dining rooms. Medium-sized bowls now supplement existing dishware, and larger, stackable cups were added to the smoothie station. A solid shelf was also built under the used silverware chutes.

Dining Services has further pledged to add a drink station with soda, Powerade, water, milk, coffee and tea to the upstairs dining room, along with another station where diners can dispose of their trash and compost.

“I love the new platform where you drop your silverware because you can set down your stuff and I’m not as likely to drop it,” Katie Siegel ’20 said. “I also appreciate the larger smoothie cups because instead of using multiple cups I only use one, which is much more convenient.”

Trays are still available upon request for those who need them, such as parents with small children, those with accessibility needs, and the elderly.

Student reactions to the trayless dining experience varied.

Jeff Lancaster ’18 said that he has no issues with the trayless change itself but finds the negative stigma surrounding the use of trays “irritating.”

“People who use trays use them because they need them, not because they want to waste water or are lazy,” Lancaster said. “Trays cater to the needs of larger people and people who exercise regularly and shouldn’t be stigmatized either way.”

Some students have noted that tables have become more dirty, as students now spill food from their plates onto the tables instead of onto trays and often do not feel inclined to pick up after themselves.

“I think the concept of going trayless is a great idea, but I don’t think Valentine is designed to make it a reasonable expectation because everything is too far away from the central location,” said Jone Slocolbe, a cashier at the dining hall. “I’m all for green initiatives, but I think it’s going to result in a lot of dishes left behind for the people at Valentine to clean up.”

On the other hand, a number of students also believe that drawbacks created by going trayless are minimal considering the environment benefits.

“I think Val is doing a really good job to try to minimize those inconveniences,” Gary said. “If people feel seriously inconvienenced by going trayless they should remember the benefits, and in the long run, having to leave your table once or twice during a meal to get more food is not the end of the world.”

On the trayless initiative, the college wrote in its statement that “moving to a trayless Valentine honors our commitment to environmental and fiscal sustainability, and that once fully executed will support an improved dining experience.” The statement did, however, recognize the change as an “adjustment from [the] status quo.”

“We cannot predict all of the potential positive or negative impacts that may affect diners and dining service staff,” it said.