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Looking Ahead

Creating a perfect dining experience poses numerous challenges. It is difficult — and perhaps impossible — for Dartmouth to manage food costs, pay employees a liveable wage, meet all students’ nutritional and dietary needs, prevent food waste, charge students reasonably, maintain quality and variety, keep facilities accessible and spacious, ensure food safety and hygiene, provide ongoing training, and adapt to emerging students’ needs and demands. The following improvement suggestions are not written to discredit or ignore Dartmouth Dining Services’ hard work and dedication. I commend Dartmouth Dining Services for the progress it has made in establishing increased food inclusivity since DDA’s formation in 1902.41

Improving the dining experience at Dartmouth requires addressing various factors, including the times food is available to students, the cost of dining plans, the visibility of services, and geographic accessibility. 

Many students can find food at almost any time of day. However, a detail about dining at Dartmouth that stands out is that the Pavilion is only open for dinner from Sunday through Thursday and for lunch Monday through Friday.42 Perhaps DDS has noticed that students do not eat at the Pavilion on the weekends, making it financially difficult to open it all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Yet, this weekend closure might create a barrier for students keeping Kosher — especially first-years — who pay for and rely on Dartmouth dining to meet their needs. 

While facilities’ hours may not create challenges, the cost of dining may always be an issue for Dartmouth students and families. Dining plans can cost upwards of $2,000 per term and are required for all students living in dorms on campus. Meal contracts are also mandatory for leave-term residents in Dartmouth housing, and the chosen contract must be more expensive than the off-campus/apartment plans. 

This financial burden can be challenging, especially for those who do not receive sufficient financial aid and cannot live off-campus. Offering all students the choice to opt out of a meal plan and instead buy groceries to cook in their dorm could provide greater fiscal relief. 

Additionally, students who pay for a meal plan also often find themselves out of meal swipes or in the “negative” (i.e. out of DBA) by the end of the term. It is important for students to learn how to budget their money and “swipes” in college — students will be responsible for managing their money upon graduation or while away from Dartmouth. However, while students may poorly budget their swipes and DBA, it is also true that many items sold in College dining facilities are marked up. For example, as noted in April 2022, “a fruit cup at Courtyard Cafe [cost] nearly $7 while a burger [cost] $7.75.”43 Heightened prices at DDS locations in comparison to grocery stores are still found in 2024. 

Making items more expensive makes it more common for students to end up in the negative and perhaps hungry. Hunger is a serious concern that can affect academic performance and overall well-being, making the end of the term — which is also finals period — a stressful time for many. Lowering the prices of items or increasing the dollar value of a meal swipe may alleviate concerns over running out of swipes or DBA. 

Another improvement Dartmouth can make towards establishing food inclusivity is the visibility of services. Students may go into the negative and run out of swipes, but there is a Food Shelf in the basement of Dick’s House “that is available at no cost to students 24/7, no questions asked.” This shelf provides “refrigerated foods and non-perishables.”44 A 24/7, no-cost food pantry is a fitting addition to help reduce students’ hunger troubles. However, I find that many students are not informed of accessible options, such as the Food Shelf; strengthening communication between students and administration could provide food insecurity relief. 

Lack of visibility and communication have also led to many gluten-intolerant students finding disappointment with the lack of gluten-free options outside the ‘53 Commons. One student, in a 2022 article from The Dartmouth, expressed frustration with the limited number of gluten-free pastries on campus. However, Beth Rosenberger, explained that “Novack and Ramekin in particular ‘always keep some gluten-free muffins or bagels on hand,’ but they are not usually displayed because of lack of space and demand.” These items’ lack of visibility leads many “gluten-free eaters to assume there are no gluten-free pastries offered.”45 Gluten and allergy-free labeling on various products is noticeable at DDS facilities, but perhaps further improving visibility for those items will enhance students’ experiences. 

Furthermore, if students need help finding food they enjoy, they can meet with Rosenberger. Rosenberger is a registered dietician who works with students one-on-one for no additional cost to help them feel comfortable eating at Dartmouth. One student explained that they “could not typically eat any food offered at Ramekin in Anonymous Hall,” but Rosenberger “coordinated with the Dartmouth Dining staff to provide a frozen meal accessible at Ramekin for that student, as long as the student provided advanced notice they would be visiting the cafe.”46 This is only one example of Rosenberger’s powerful and meaningful work, and perhaps students are unaware of Rosenberger and similar services, which could explain their difficulties. Increasing Rosenberger’s visibility on campus might resolve more students’ complaints. 

Making Rosenberger and other services more visible might give students a better chance to find food they find satisfying. However, some students struggle with geographic access to food. During cold months or late-night study sessions, students living farther from the center of campus, such as in the River Cluster or East Wheelock Cluster, may not have the energy to walk to the ‘53 Commons. East Wheelock’s “Andrés Snackbar” offers four locked refrigerators that students can unlock using their student ID; the refrigerator will automatically charge each item to students’ Declining Balance Account. This 24/7 option close to students’ residences makes finding food much more convenient. These refrigerators also allow students to purchase items using their meal plan rather than buying snacks at a vending machine with a credit or debit card. Increasing the number of these refrigerators around campus might mitigate students’ hardship with geographical — and perhaps financial — access to food. 

By no means are these suggestions exhaustive, but I hope this page raises awareness about food injustice and helps start more conversations between students and staff about dining needs. There will always be room for improvement, and dialogues in the Dartmouth community are an important step for establishing food inclusivity. If readers are interested in making a suggestion or providing feedback for Dartmouth Dining Services, please see DDS’s “Share Your Feedback” page here: https://dining.dartmouth.edu/about/share-your-feedback


41 Archwamety, Eating Clubs Preceded Today’s DDS

42 Dartmouth Dining, Kosher & Halal Dining

43 The Dartmouth Editorial Board, “Verbum Ultimum: An Apple a Day,” The Dartmouth, April 15, 2022, https://www.thedartmouth.com/article/2022/04/verbum-ultimum-apple-a-day. 

44 “Student Government-Created Resources,” Dartmouth Student Government, accessed March 8, 2024, https://sg.dartmouth.edu/resources

45 James-Rodil, The Woes of Gluten-Free Dining

46 The Dartmouth Editorial Board, “Verbum Ultimum: A Foco For All,” The Dartmouth, September 29, 2023, https://www.thedartmouth.com/article/2023/09/verbum-ultimum-a-foco-for-all.

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