Variety of dining options available on campus

by Brandon Apoo | 8/21/15 6:20pm

08-09-2015-kaf-eliza-mcdonough
by Eliza McDonough and Eliza McDonough / The Dartmouth

The Canadian groundfruit of Dartmouth Outing Club’s First-Year Trips is just one of the delicacies the Big Green offers its students after they matriculate.

Back on campus, students can select from a variety of establishments run by Dartmouth Dining Services. These include Collis Café, Courtyard Café, Novack Café and the Class of 1953 Commons. These provide students with many dining choices including halal, kosher, vegetarian and vegan options, among others. Students also have two independent vendors available to them on campus. One of the vendors, King Arthur Flour Café, is located on the first floor of Baker Library and is popular for its fresh baked treats. The other, the Box, is a student-managed food truck known for its Mediterranean-inspired menu, and is normally found on Tuck Drive during lunch hours. Students can also stock up on late-night treats at the East Wheelock and soon-to-come McLaughlin Snack Bars.

Although the College offers several different dining plans, incoming freshman are required to select one of two meal plans during their first term on campus. First year students are automatically enrolled in the SmartChoice20 dining plan.

The plan provides 20 meals each week and includes a declining balance account (DBA) of $150. Freshman may select the BlockChoice160 meal plan for the same price. The BlockChoice160 provides 160 meals for the term and $200 of DBA. After their fall term, students can then change their meal plans for subsequent terms on campus.

Meal swipes have different values depending on the time of day. Breakfast and late-night swipes are worth $5.25, lunch swipes are worth $7.75 and dinner swipes are worth $10. They can be used at all dining facilities except KAF and the Box. DBA can be used anywhere except for the Box, which requires customers to pay out of pocket, and at any time.

Some students are more conservative with their spending and end up with leftover DBA. In the past, students would blow through their remaining funds at the end of the term to take full advantage of their prepaid meal plan. A recent change, however, allows $100 of DBA to roll over to the following term, though all accounts are still emptied after the spring term.

Dining plans vary in cost and meals to DBA ratio, the trend being the greater number of meal swipes, the more expensive the meal plan. Associate director of DDS Don Reed recommends choosing your meal plan based on your eating habits. The choice in plans depends on your personal eating habits, Reed said.

He added that the biggest difference in the plans is the meals to DBA ratio. For example, a student who prefers FoCo would benefit more from a dining plan with more meal swipes than a student who prefers Collis, a DBA-oriented setting. For that reason, Reed recommends the SmartChoice10 because it offers a good balance of meal swipes and DBA.

Edward Romeyn ’17 said he wishes he knew more about dining options before matriculating.

“Before matriculating, I would have liked to have known more about the range of other dining options,” he said. “I stuck with the 20, of course, but my friends and I were pretty clueless as to which one would best fit our lifestyles and schedules.”

One of the more popular dining options on campus is FoCo. Students typically use a meal swipe to enter, but they can also pay with DBA. FoCo offers a buffet-style setting where students can chose from an array of different options, including a pizza bar, salad bar, grill area and desert section. It caters to various diets with its vegetarian, kosher and gluten-free stations. Many students prefer FoCo for its variety and reasonable pricing. At least that is the case for Gautam Babu ’16.

“My favorite place [to eat on campus] is FoCo since there is lots of variety, stir fry, and because it is the only place I can eat a meal that actually will fill me up without burning DBA,” he said.

More than anything, FoCo is a social space where students can meet up with friends and chat over a meal. But for those on the run, FoCo also offers take-out boxes where you can grab your food and go.

Another popular spot is Collis. It offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night options throughout the week and is closed on weekends, except for late-night dining. Major attractions include the omelet station offered in the mornings, the pasta bar that opens up in the afternoon, the finger foods offered at late-night and the smoothie station that operates throughout the day. Recently, Collis also became home to a farm stand that offers fresh, local produce on Friday afternoons.

The newly-renovated Novack doubles as a highway for students rushing between classes by day and a quiet study area by night. Located in the Berry Library, it also offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night options, although most students frequent the spot for their daily caffeine fix. A meal swipe can go a long way at Novack, so most students prefer it for their late night study sessions.

On the other side of the library, students line up early for the goods offered at KAF. Both a café and a bakery, KAF is a favorite among Dartmouth students with plenty of DBA – the only payment method accepted at KAF. It is open during working hours throughout the week, but is closed on weekends. Popular purchases include the yogurt and granola parfaits and cold-cut sandwiches, not to mention the list of caffeinated beverages.

Spencer Blair ’17 prefers KAF for several reasons.

“KAF is definitely one of my favorite places to eat and study on campus,” Blair said. “Aside from the food and atmosphere, I also love how friendly and conversational all of the staff is at KAF.”

Despite its immense improvement over the years, DDS still has a few things to work on. One issue is the price of the dining plans, a notion shared by many students.

“At the moment, my dining plan is way too expensive, and the dining options are much more expensive at Dartmouth than at other schools,” Romeyn said. “This, I imagine, is a large problem that many people cite as their number one issue with DDS.”

Babu shared a similar sentiment.

“Because those foods are so expensive, when I use a food swipe, the dollar value is not nearly enough to get a filling meal.”

He recommended making foods more reasonably priced since it is very easy to go over the DBA limit.

But DDS is committed to ensuring the best service for students to make them feel comfortable at Dartmouth, Beth Rosenberger, the registered dietitian for the College, said. DDS is open to any and all recommendations from students, she continued, referring to the large blackboard in FoCo where students can jot down ideas they would like to see implemented.

“All of us look at the board all the time to see what’s on there. And that’s where a lot of the changes or the things we’ve offered [have come from],” she said.

Rosenberger added that if a student has special dietary needs or at any time has health issues or concerns, they should not hesitate to contact her.

Blair is a former member of The Dartmouth opinion staff.