Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Student businesses petition for right to accept Dining Dollars

By Sarah Robertson

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(Collegian File photo)

(Collegian File photo)

The Greeno Sub Shop, a nonprofit, student-run collective named after its home in Greenough Hall, is petitioning to allow student dining businesses to accept Dining Dollars in an effort to better compete with University of Massachusetts Dining Services.

Greeno Sub Shop is collectively run by 23 co-managers, each equally responsible for running the business. The staff votes on all decisions and self-governs through a collection of committees. The staff also shares a passion for the arts, which they demonstrate during their open mic nights every Thursday.

“We have events like open mic nights, art nights and dance parties,” said Adria Kelly, Greeno co-manager. “We are completely revamping the image of the shop so we have a clearer identity on campus.”

And one of the ways of revamping this image is changing the way students can pay for meals. The switch Greeno is petitioning for would allow students with meal plans that include Dining Dollars, the on-campus currency exclusive to these plans, to use them at all student businesses. Currently, most student-run businesses can only accept cash, debit or meal exchanges.

The online petition has gathered 502 signatures since mid-October, just surpassing the initial goal of 500. Greeno managers started the petition to allow their sub shop, Earthfoods Café, Sweets N’ More and the Sylvan Snack Bar to keep their businesses in sync with the evolution of campus dining.

Garett DiStefano, Director of Residential Dining at UMass, is working with a subcommittee of students to address the changes and concerns surrounding university dining.

“We are in discussion, talking with student businesses right now. They are part of this subcommittee,” DiStefano said. “To be honest, at this point in time I don’t want to get into a mix of trying to get into a discussion about the fine points of Dining Dollars and meal swipes. I want to talk about building a relationship with student-run businesses.”

Last April, DiStefano held a town hall meeting to listen to students’ thoughts on the new meal plan options this semester. From that meeting came the idea of Dining Dollars, a dollar-for-dollar campus dining currency available to five of the eight dining plan options for students on and off campus.

Dining Dollars are the university’s newest addition to on-campus dining. They replaced some plans’ Meal Exchanges, nine single-use $9.50 meal swipes, as the new way on-campus students can eat at dining locations other than dining halls. Southwest Delivery Express, Blue Wall, University Club & Restaurant, the UPub and sports concession stands also accept Dining Dollars.

“I am very enthusiastic about the approach that we are taking,” DiStefano said. “I don’t want to get myself into one mindset that this is all we are going to do, because what if there is something else out there?”

But some student-run business aren’t entirely pleased with the changes.“Unfortunately we have been struggling with business lately due to our inability to accept Dining Dollars,” Kelly said. “Because there is a large population in Central (Residential) Area that have on-campus dining plans, they can’t use them here and they purchase their meals at different options like Baby Berk and Franklin (Dining Common).”

The Baby Berk food trucks occasionally park in the courtyard directly outside of Greeno, posing a threat to business as it accepts both Dining Dollars and Meal Exchanges.Greeno managers fear that meal exchanges are phasing out of UMass dining and that many students who do use them do not live on campus, nor do they frequent Greeno. Allowing student businesses to accept Dining Dollars would give more on-campus students the option to eat at and support collectives like the Greeno Sub Shop.

Sarah Robertson can be reached at [email protected]

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