People

While the Your Campus Meal Plan (YCMP) has been a mainstay for University of Massachusetts students looking for an alternative to the dining commons, the People’s Market has struggled to get a piece of the action.

‘For about two and a half years, we have been struggling to get YCMP, but Auxiliary Services has been adamant about not allowing us,’ said Michael Kebede, an employee at the People’s Market.

The People’s Market has been at odds with Auxiliary Services and the administration since last fall, when a question included on the Student Governt Association’s (SGA) election ballots asked if YCMP should apply to the student-run business.

The proposition passed by a large margin.

Since then, the business has created a YCMP task force purposed with dealing with the administration to try and make YCMP available there.

‘We are just trying to find which people in the administration we need to talk to, to obtain YCMP and what we have to do, but we’re finding it hard to get through the Auxiliary Services,’ said Amato Zinno, a member of the task force. ‘This is not a new battle. In the past, there have been other efforts.’

In addition to the ballot initiative, People’s Market staff members said the store has taken surveys of students who have overwhelmingly said that they would like to use their swipes at the store. But according to Kebede, the SGA is in favor of the People’s Market getting YCMP but cannot yet get past the process that actually decides.

‘The People’s Market has come to us several times in the past to get YCMP, but we always say no for two reasons,’ said Ken Toong, the Executive Director of Dining Services. ‘We consider it more like a convenience store, and we are trying to protect the financial integrity for the meal plan.’

According to Toong, YCMP is not available to convenience stores because of the cost structure and financial differences between convenience stores and dining places. It’s the reason stores at the dining halls do not have YCMP either. Toong said that it isn’t financially responsible.

‘We support student-run businesses, but we have to make sure that we can cover our own overhead,’ said Toong.

The employees at the People’s Market have a difference of opinion when it comes to Toong’s definition of ‘convenience store.’

‘The administration says we should not have it because we are a convenience store, but we sell things that could make a meal, like bagels, coffee, and sandwiches,’ said Zinno. ‘We have a lot more to offer than the Procrastination Station, which has YCMP, but we offer a wider selection of food.’

Kebede agreed, citing that most revenue for the business came from coffee and bagels, which also tops the sales at other outlets that do offer YCMP.

YCMP has become an important issue for People’s Market recently because of the financial situation that they are in.

‘Last year we needed the YCMP,’ said Kebede. ‘We have been losing money every year. We were sure YCMP would have helped pull us out of a mess.’

The People’s Market is sure that if they offered YCMP, more students would go there to eat because it would just be part of the meal plan instead of an out-of-pocket expense.

‘The People’s Market has been struggling for the past few semesters, but we have been able to bounce back a bit recently,’ said Zinno. ‘YCMP would help us out because we could open to a new market of people. It would make our business more sustainable and more profitable.’

Money is the issue for both. Unfortunately for People’s Market, what would help them financially may hurt Dining Services, something that the University is not willing to risk with the current economy.

Emily Reynolds can be reached at [email protected].