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The Dartmouth
April 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Gart: What The Hell Is DA$H?

Groceries are frustratingly difficult to acquire on campus — but they don’t have to be.

The other morning, I was chatting with a friend of mine who goes to college in a big city. About halfway through the phone call, he realized that he was out of milk and a few other groceries. “No worries,” he said, “I’ll just run across the street to grab some more.” Jokingly, I remarked, “Oh, off to the nearest CVS?” After a pause, he replied, “uh… why would I ever go to CVS for groceries?”

Quite frankly, it’s hard to comprehend how weird the grocery system at Dartmouth is. There seem to be three main sources for students living on campus within walking distance. First, the Co-op, which is about a mile from campus; second, the CVS in town and third, Collis Market. None of these are exactly perfect solutions. The Co-op is a long way to schlep back groceries without a car, CVS has a hyper-limited selection of items and Collis Market seems to charge $3,000 for a single baby carrot. 

Yet, many Dartmouth students still need to get their groceries from somewhere, so we take the fall and hit one of the three locations. No matter which poison we pick, though, there’s still a clear disincentive to buy groceries in general. It seems like Dartmouth’s setup forces us to depend on the dining halls as our only viable food option. Of course, if you’re on an on-campus meal plan — which the vast majority of students are — then it makes sense to visit dining halls often. But the snacks available at Dartmouth’s dining halls and cafes are simply lacking in substance and value. 

Here seems to be the crux of the issue: The administration just refuses to admit that some college students need groceries. They insist on students signing up for the “unlimited” meal plan and even tried to eliminate the use of meal swipes at snack bars. But despite all this, of course college students need groceries. Dartmouth literally installed fridges and microwaves in the Choates (even if it was some weird form of reparations for having to live there). The majority of dorm rooms I’ve seen on campus have fridges alongside some sort of makeshift pantry. Obviously, students want to buy food they can eat later or be able to cook in some capacity. Why won’t the College let them use their meal plans to do so? 

If a student has extra DBA they aren’t going to spend on a meal, their options are limited to snacks like candy, chips, the weird amount of cake offered at the Hop, a singular overripe avocado from Collis or a massively overpriced granola bar from Novack. Healthy and affordable snacks are virtually nowhere to be found, aside from bizarre packets of guacamole shoved into the back of the refrigerators or costly fruit cups. Sure, Foco late-night has been a fun addition, but it feels like many of its options are either fried, slathered in cheese or some combination of the two. As good as that sometimes tastes, healthy and cost-effective snacking options need to be offered as well. 

Of course, there is one place that’s convenient to buy from: Collis Market. They offer fresh fruit, a wide variety of snacks and a grocery store-like format, with the convenience of being located in the heart of campus. Yet, Collis Market is nearly always empty of students — and it’s not rocket science to find out why. Students have no incentive to shop there because the prices are notably higher than surrounding grocery stores and there is no ability to purchase food through their meal plans. Instead, students must use DA$H — a discretionary form of payment account connected to ID cards that is separate from meal plans — or pay with their own credit cards. But there’s nothing stopping the College from changing that. 

Of course, it’s important to acknowledge that many students don’t simply have the time or setup necessary to cook their own food. That’s totally fine – our dining halls and cafes still serve plenty of food. But the students who want access to groceries still deserve to get it, and the students who don’t need it still eat snacks. This problem isn’t earth-shattering, but it’s still a consistent frustration for students across campus, and should be addressed as such.

The solution to this problem is laughably simple: Make Collis Market accept DBA. It’s already a part of Dartmouth Dining Services and it clearly exists to conveniently provide students with groceries. So why in the world shouldn’t it take DBA? Dartmouth Dining is notorious among students for making strange decisions with questionable motives, and this policy doesn’t help that image. If they don’t want to make DBA an option at Collis Market, another easy option exists: Lower prices to be more competitive with other local grocery options. 

Today, I actually ran out of a few groceries, so for the sake of this article, I ventured into Collis Market. I bought a carton of milk, a small tin of hummus and a carton of raspberries. On my credit card. For over twenty bucks.

I have 325 dollars of DBA left.

Make it make sense, Dartmouth Dining.