Growing up, I never ate dinner before 8 p.m. (though I may have had a second lunch around 5 p.m.), and adjusting to the “early-bird special” hours at the dining halls at Williams College has been a struggle for me since my first day here. At many schools, including Bowling Green and the University of Pennsylvania, there are dining halls that remain open until 9 at night. Now, when you eat dinner at 5:45 p.m. like the average Eph, and provided that you didn’t finagle your way around swiping your card, it’s quite likely that you’re going to be hungry before bedtime, some seven and half hours later. What options do you have if you don’t feel like spending $5.50 for some Snack Bar chicken fingers? None.
It certainly would be an awful lot of work to convince the College to extend the hours of its dining halls, since that probably wouldn’t be cost efficient for them (the College just doesn’t have the same student population as Bowling Green or UPenn). However, the College could extend the hours of one dining hall everyday (and the dining hall that would do this could rotate), so that students who wish to dine at 9:15 would have that option.
Furthermore, an even simpler solution, one that is offered at nearly every other school, would be to simply provide “to-go” boxes at each dining hall, so that after finishing your dinner at 6, you can put aside a sandwich or two for when you’re studying late that night and get a sudden craving for egg salad. Currently the only containers at most dining halls that you could hypothetically put excess food in are those paper coffee cups, and those certainly aren’t ideal for storing lasagna. Not only would these to-go boxes allow students to be better nourished throughout the night, but they would also contribute to a healthier student body because students would be less likely to overeat during dinner if they knew that there was another meal waiting for them later in the night.
A little known fact at the College is that each lunch costs $10.50. The quality of food and the fact that most of the dining halls are buffet style certainly merit a high price. Furthermore, this price doesn’t seem too extravagant when the College meal plan is compared to that of other schools. However, there is simply no justification for ever charging $10.50 for Grab ’n’ Go. How can a small sandwich, an apple, a can of soda, a bag of Doritos and a hermit (possibly the worst dessert known to man) ever cost $10.50? This meal, or should I say snack, costs the school probably about $3.50 and in no way is equivalent to the delicacies created at Whitmans’. The sole explanation for the staircase lines for Grab ’n’ Go is that it is the only option for students who are in a hurry to eat before class. When most students get a Grab ’n’ Go lunch, they get it because they have little choice.
Now I’m not advocating for the abolition of Grab ’n’ Go, as its timely bag lunches are a benefit to many students. Instead, I’m pushing for a new system where students would be able to get their money’s worth at Grab ’n’ Go. One possible situation would consist of students being able to take a second apple or another sandwich. Another possible system that could work would be that if a student gets lunch at Grab ’n’ Go, he/she would get an amount of $4 to be used at Snack Bar between the lunch and dinner hours that day. This, in turn, would compensate the student for his or her less-than-filling meal at Grab ’n’ Go.
It wouldn’t be fair of me to lambast the dining halls on the bottom floor of Paresky completely, for the ’82 Grill has transformed into an amazing gourmet pizza restaurant this past semester. The addition of toppings like artichokes, sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives and the tantalizingly delicious new pesto cream sauce have caused me to dream (often salivating publicly) of the brick walls of the ’82 Grill during my 11 a.m. art history lecture. If there is a dining hall of the year award, it would be a travesty not to award it to the fine men and women of the ’82 Grill, for their ingenuity in creating new delicious toppings every week is blessing unto the College.
This simple Grab ’n’ Go change coupled with either later dining hall hours or to-go boxes would go a long way in fixing some of the major dining hall problems on campus, and then finally the Purple Valley will no longer echo with the sound of growling stomachs.