Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The ‘Grab and Go’ system needs adjustment

Provide more variety and value
(Collegian File Photo)

As students of the University of Massachusetts, we are very fortunate to have access to high quality, award-winning food in each of our four dining halls. UMass has maintained the title of number one dining out of all universities across the United States for a third year in a row, according to the Princeton Review. However, some aspects of the “Grab and Go” system must be altered in order to better reflect the necessities of students who are looking to eat quickly. Despite the limited space available to provide a variety of pre-packaged food items, we should all consider the value of our meal plans in relation to the quantity and variety of food we receive.

The ability to conveniently acquire either breakfast or lunch from Grab and Go stations makes it easier for students to easily integrate meals into their often-hectic schedules. While I am not arguing that the entire system needs an overhaul, it is important to examine how much food we are able to gather for the same price as swiping into a dining hall. While students with unlimited dining plans do not face the struggle of utilizing an entire meal swipe on far less food, students with a limited number of swipes must prioritize accessibility over the abundance of choice. For example, a single meal swipe at the dining halls would allow a student to eat a relatively unlimited amount of food, as they can assemble as many plates as they desire. At Grab and Go, that same student is restricted to specific choices that constitute an entire meal in the eyes of the University. During the morning session of Grab and Go, an egg and cheese breakfast sandwich with a few sides counts as a single meal. Though the food itself is of high quality, students have too little choice over what items they can pick while still only using a single meal swipe. For those with limited swipes, this can create a situation in which a student might not be able to choose what they would genuinely enjoy eating, but rather what is covered under the definition of a “meal” in this setting.

Often, many of my friends with specific dietary restrictions are forced to choose less food items than would normally satisfy them due to the frequently unaccommodating options available. Personally, when I visit the Grab and Go locations I am met with far fewer vegetarian options than my meat-eating friends. Though there is always something I am able to eat, the vegetarian options rarely change from day to day or week to week. Unfortunately, this makes for a rather boring lunch for me, and I am typically left wishing I had enough time in between classes to formally eat inside the dining hall where there are more choices. A close friend of mine cannot eat gluten products due to Celiac disease. While there are very few gluten free meals available, these choices rotate even less than the vegetarian foods do. After a while, the routine of eating the same sandwich or salad can grow tiresome and less appealing.

The Grab and Go operation is certainly a benefit to UMass students overall, but some changes must be made to the variety and quantity available for those who do not have time to eat in the dining halls. Perhaps taking a closer look at which foods are available for different dietary needs, as well as the amount of food students may take per swipe, would help to mitigate some of the drawbacks of the system. While I do personally feel as though there will never be a day when I cannot pick something to eat, maintaining a higher degree of variation and value could go a long way in ensuring that the structure of Grab and Go meets the standards of the dining halls properly. It seems to me that some adjustments should be made to better reflect the award-winning aspects of UMass dining.

Jake Russian is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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    AmyOct 9, 2018 at 11:06 pm

    Someone else wrote in a column how university staff don’t want to answer journalist questions or take them seriously… maybe it’s because of articles like this?

    Fluff pieces that nobody cares about. Thanks for hard-hitting critical commentary on grab and go.