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COVID-19 restrictions take the “un” out of the unlimited meal plan

As the College goes through its first few weeks with students on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic, students are dealing with an unanticipated change: the temporary reduction of their typical unlimited meal plan to a three-swipes-per-day program.

The alterations to the meal plan have become a controversial part of the College’s COVID-19 strategy. The introduction of restrictive, meal-specific swipes has compelled students to organize their schedules around eating, and long lines at the dining halls have made meals more time-consuming. The Colby Echo discussed students’ concerns with Marietta Lamarre, General Manager of Dining Services. She said that the new three-swipe-per-day meal policy is temporary.

“Every day I send information to the COVID committee, like how many students we fed and where we’ve seen the rushes because we were concerned that if everyone had unlimited swipes, we wouldn’t be able to get everyone through,” Lamarre said.

“We’re monitoring it every day, and at some point, it will change. We’re not sure what it’s gonna be, because we’re still monitoring it, but we want to make sure that everyone gets an option to eat when they want to eat.”

Lamarre does not know when the College will reinstate the unlimited swipe policy, although she is confident that the meal plan will return to normal at some point.

Many other colleges and universities have forced students to schedule meal times. Lamarre believes that the meal swipe reduction has helped the College avoid this inconvenient situation.

She also said that the College does not intend to give out a rebate because students can still take as much food as they would like per meal and can eat whenever they want.

The meal swipe limit is one of the most drastic changes to the College’s dining experience. To help limit the number of people in a dining hall at once and to give dining staff more time to clean tables, Lamarre said that the College has suspended Dana’s 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. time period, colloquially referred to as “Dana Grill.” Other than this exception, however, the College has maintained normal dining hours and has even added new ones.

“We have more overall hours that people can get meals. I think it’s about 40 or a little over 40 hours per week, because the Spa is now open for breakfast at 8 am, Monday through Friday,” Lamarre said. “Then, it has lunch from 11-5, and then dinner from 5-9. And then Dana and Roberts are open until 8 every night.”

Long lines have also been an issue for students, but Lamarre is confident that the wait times will significantly shorten over the next days and weeks. Since last Thursday, fewer students have rushed to the dining halls at peak hours.

“We’re still finding that lunchtime rush at Dana really hard,” Lamarre said.

However, Lamarre is happy with the decrease in wait times at Roberts, pointing out that the dinner time rush has mostly subsided. In the future, Lamarre thinks that the College might extend Roberts’ hours to accommodate for students coming from the new athletic center.

The expansion of “Take 4” is another notable change. Lamarre thinks that the expansion has been a success. “We’re planning on the expanded [Take 4] program for the semester,” Lamarre explained.

The dining alterations have been confusing for students, but it has been equally difficult for dining staff. “It’s new for all of us. It’s new for you guys because you’re getting served now; it’s new for us because we have to serve,” Lamarre said.

~Matt Rocha `23

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