Dining Services to Eliminate Three Meal Plan Options for Fall 2020

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Lianna Brown ‘22, Managing Editor

All on-campus students will be moved on to the Any 20 meal plan and all Flex meal plans will be eliminated for the Fall 2020 semester, according to Errol Huffman, director of Dining Services.

The Any 20 meal plan allots students 20 meal swipes to be used at any point throughout the seven day week. According to the campus dining webpage, “Dickinson College recommends that first year students choose the Any 20 Plan until study and eating habits are established.” In
comparison, Flexboard “Points” Plans, or Flex plans, are described as providing “less meal value as The Any 20 plan but provide more flexibility” according the Dining Services webpage. Flex plans usually come in three forms: Flex I, Flex II, and an Apartment Flex plan. Each offers a different amount of points, Dining Dollars, and Declining Balance depending on the students’ eating habits and preferences.

In a July 9 email to The Dickinsonian, Huffman explained that the decision to suspend the Flex meal plans for the fall semester came from the fact that “most of the retail operations such as the Biblio and the Quarry will be closed during the fall semester and the typical meal exchange will
not be available,” adding that Any 20 is “the one plan that provides the highest transactional value and ensures meal-access every week of the term.”

The Director of Dining Services furthered that his office is planning to offer a special COVID apartment plan which, according to Huffman, “will be a $500 discount of the ANY 20 plan for qualifying students.”

However, Dining Services is encouraging students to limit trips off-campus. “Local grocery stores have had difficulty keeping up with demand and we don’t want to add to our community’s burden, especially if there is a resurgence of COVID-19 in the coming months,” Huffman said.
In a July 8 email to a student who initially asked about signing up for an Apartment Flex plan, Huffman detailed how Dining Services will be implementing additional practices to address COVID-19 conditions, including queues and seating plans six feet apart and accompanying staff to
encourage social distancing. All visitors and employees of the dining hall will also be required to wear face coverings except when eating and drinking. Furthermore, all self-service food areas will be served by Dining hall employees, including salad bars and beverages, among others.
Huffman furthered that Dining Services will also provide four Grab & Go outlets to encourage distancing along with “[the] use of a system to assign and reserve a meal seating for lunch and dinner.”

Huffman explained that there will be a second temporary dining facility whose location is to be announced within 7-10 days. “We are actively weighing the pros and cons of two alternatives: space in the Kline Center and also temporary space in the ATS parking lots,” said Huffman in his
email to The Dickinsonian. “The HUB 2, as the alternate location is being called, will serve most of the menu items offered in the HUB Dining Hall. Some of the food will be prepared on-site in a kitchen facility built for those purposes while other foods will be centrally prepared in the HUB Kitchen.”

Students have expressed concerns about the limits of only being offered an Any 20 meal plan and having limited dining locations. “I was on any 20 my first semester and changed off as fast as possible for my second semester. I personally had so many swipes leftover and wasted a lot of
food trying to use them up,” said Maia Uphoff ’22. “I really didn’t like the lack of flexibility and I really don’t think that in the current climate having everyone on an even more restricted meal plan will in any way be beneficial.”

“I think Dickinson’s elimination of Flex this semester is absurd. Indoor dining spaces are routinely listed as one of the most high-risk places for virus spread,” said Claire Jeantheau ‘21. “Even though there are new social distancing measures for eating, I think that students would be
better off using the freedom that comes with Flex to coordinate their own meals in a safe way, especially students with dietary restrictions or kitchens in housing.”

Caroline Strapp ’22 expressed concerns about only being able to dine on campus and not having the ability to cook in communal spaces. “I think it’s idealistic of the school to think they will be able to get students to solely use college Dining Services in order to create a ‘bubble’ for the
college. I understand the idea of limiting exposure behind this move but the reality is that students will go to grocery stores to get food for various reasons whether that be for digestive and medical needs or prefer to cook in their own rooms to avoid exposure in the caf or to make more culturally appropriate meals.”

In a message to The Dickinsonian, Eve Greenberg ’21 said, “I genuinely feel as though Dickinson is attempting to force us all into any 20 for their financial gain. We have received information claiming that having us all eat from the Caf is the safest option, but many of us
acknowledge the several flaws in that logic. Indoor eating isn’t even allowed in most states, including Pennsylvania, so to ask us to eat in an inclosed area, even 6 feet apart, is dangerous. Then we have the issue of the employees serving us food. While I’m sure they will be wearing
required PPE, they come from all over the county, and can easily be exposed in their off time, which in turn would expose every student that gets food from them.”

“To say that eating in a common area (the busiest one on campus) is safer than cooking our own groceries in our own kitchens is a blatant lie. While they have said that people with accommodations will get specific plans, they still have to pay for any 20,” furthered Greenberg. “It would be much easier, and better for our pockets if we could use proper precautions to go to grocery stores, and cook our own food.”

“One of the emails the President’s Office sent out denounced the idea that college students could not be trusted to make safe choices,” said Jeantheau. “If this is true, why is Dickinson canceling a dining policy which would give students the responsibility to make these choices about eating?”