The Dining Subcommittee
began its work by reviewing the results of the Housing and Dining Survey
and generally reviewing the history of the house dining
system at Smith, and challenging ourselves to identify how the current
dining program relates to the mission of residential life. The Dining Subcommittee
(Kathleen Zieja, director of residence and dining services, chair; Joe
lead catering cook; Miriam Quintal '04; Elizabeth Spelman, professor, Philosophy;
and Margo Welch '84) determined early on that the subcommittee would hold
a number of focus groups to probe and gather more data on dining and options.
Rabbi Bruce Bromberg Seltzer also assisted this subcommittee and provided
information regarding kosher meal plans and the dining program at Duke
University. We also incorporated some of the suggestions that were provided
by a consulting
dietitian from Tufts University in our discussions with students (see Appendix
regarding meal hours (first year class expressed highest
Availability of partial meal plan options.
options for juniors and seniors to prepare their own meals in apartment style
Increased options for more variety within
the meal plan structure; low fat, low carbohydrate option, more vegetarian
options, and some
interest in vegan,
kosher, and halal dining.
50.5% of the students stated that they
would opt to eat in a traditional dining room affiliated with their house (currently
80% of students dine in their own
house Monday through Friday, and 62% of students dine in their
own house on weekends).
23.7% of the students stated that they
would opt to eat in any traditional dining room (not necessarily in their own
one with longer
19.6% of seniors would like to cook their
own meals (currently about 3%
of the student body prepare their own meals).
Students living in
college residences (other than Friedman, Tenney and Hopkins) have a mandatory
21-meal board plan. There are 19
professional kitchens that
provide food and service to 26 dining rooms (13 kitchens are
open seven days a week and the other 6 are open only on weekdays).
are required to have lunch at their own house dining assignment. The college
policy of dining in your own house at
lunch was implemented
because central campus dining rooms were being swamped at lunchtime.
The houses located closest to the academic buildings are some
of the smallest
and do not
have tables, chairs, or kitchen facilities to support extra
students; additionally, students cannot gain access to these houses and
there are no card readers
in these units to verify if they are on the board plan. For
breakfast and dinner,
board paying students may eat in any other dining room for
those meals but only as a guest of another student. Students who take
5-College courses may
dine at the “host” institution as a free meal exchange.
Breakfast – Monday through Friday - Hot Breakfast - 7:30 - 8:30 a.m.
- Continental - 8:30 - 10:30 a.m.
Saturday - Continental - 8:30 - 9:30 a.m.
Sunday - Continental - 8:30 - 9:30 a.m.
Lunch – Monday through Friday - 11:45 - 1:00 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday Brunch - 11:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Dinner – Monday through Thursday - 5:45 – 7:00 p.m.
Friday through Sunday - 5:15 – 6:30 p.m.
RADS funds and supports the kosher co-op at Dawes.
The co-op is totally student run, provides a vegetarian meal on Friday nights
and is open to all students.
Halal meals are served to Muslim students on
Monday nights at Duckett
Special Dining Room.
Language departments host a lunch meal once a
week at Duckett Special
Other student groups may use the special dining
space in Duckett for meetings (this option is very popular, and these special
rooms have been used regularly).
A late dining program for athletes is provided
for dinner Monday through Thursday until 7:30 p.m. (for 2002/03 at Cushing
The department provides food alternatives and
support for students on
special diets or who have food-related allergies.
In addition to daily meal
service, the department provides some all-college and/or house barbecues
and special events that support college events (Orientation,
Recipe From Home Contest, Special Culinary Dining
Event, Student Research Day,
Medieval Banquet, etc.).
A $25.00 credit that
can be used at the Davis Snack Bar is provided to board paying students and
provides a limited solution to missed meals.
A popular activity and a valued
tradition, tea is served once a week in
During exam time, snacks are provided beyond regular
dining hours and
beverage machines are left on in dining rooms.
On Thursday night, candlelight
dinner is served and the house decides whether the meal is served family
style or as a buffet. Often, House Fellows
guests attend these dinners.
paying student receives 4 guest meal passes at the start of the year. In
addition, each student may have 2 guests for the Family Weekend
may have 4 guests for their Senior
Off campus Ada Comstock Scholars and traditional
students may purchase a partial meal plan.
RADS supports the Ada Affiliate Program
and this provides Ada Comstock Scholars with the option
of one meal a week in a house of their choice.
Nine focus groups were conducted in
February and early March to better understand and explore a variety of questions
that surfaced as a result of the Housing
and Dining Survey. The groups included: residential life staff; randomly
selected samples of students; two house groups; the RADS Reps; and Residence
and Dining Services staff. The discussions were helpful and provided
more depth to survey results, especially as it relates to more flexibility
longer meal hours and options. Of particular interest was the variation
in student responses depending upon whether focus groups were conducted
houses with house residents, or among randomly selected students at public
locations around campus. In the house-only discussions, students said
they would forego improvements in variety and food quality in order to keep
their own house dining room open. Minority opinions or needs were not
supported increased options in groups conducted outside the houses.
program has been an essential part of the Smith experience for decades. Overall,
students voiced their appreciation for house
dining. They stated that
the dining system is what makes Smith unique and enhances their residential
experience. One student stated, "Going to breakfast in p.j.'s
is popular." Students
were quick to point out the positive aspects of living in a community
and the importance of their relationships with the dining and housekeeping
concerned student said, "it is hard to be a community if the
house doesn't eat together."
A central theme that emerged from
all but one of the focus groups was that we should retain the house
dining program. The Residential
the only group that clearly expressed a need to explore new dining
students. The residential staff are more veteran students, and
their discussions support the survey findings that some students would
prefer to live on
their own and prepare their own food. An email received from a
junior also supported
the need for more options:
I hardly ever eat in my dining room—I do not particularly
like many of the "exotic" dishes that are prepared and
find myself oftentimes grabbing a bagel or ordering out. So I would
prefer if Smith had more dining
For the most part, students like to dine in their
houses. They expressed fondness for the fact that they live in
a house (not
and the dining and
living experience help create “one big family.” Students
like the amenities and comforts of the house system and dining
rooms become places for
spontaneous discussions. The house dining rooms, and especially
Thursday night candlelight dinner, encourage students to linger
after meals. Additionally,
students appreciate the fact that they can have faculty and staff
as guests. Many also like to invite the House Fellows to dinner.
Students were quick to identify
some constraints within the house dining system. The complaints related to
a lack of flexibility
and menu variety.
one student, there were no complaints about the lunch serving
time. Most, however, would like to see expanded hours for
is served only until 8:30 a.m. Students expressed interest
an additional half hour (service to 9:00 a.m.). Dinner is
5:45 – 7:00 p.m.
during the week. Many students expressed a desire to keep
one site open until at least 8:00 p.m.
While modest extensions
to meal times would help some students,
there was a general interest in at least one venue with dramatically
thought the Campus Center might be of use in this way. In
the house-based focus groups, students stated that we shouldn’t
close their own house dining room. In all discussions, students
stated that the Davis dollars ($25.00) credit
provided to each board paying student does not go far. Students
understood that increasing flexibility would affect our current
Issues that were discussed included the need for
OneCard meal swiping and identification. One student who
currently expressed displeasure
with this process. In all discussions, however, students
felt further consolidation
shouldn’t occur without first improving exterior door
access to the “host” dining
room. Currently, students who are assigned to weekend dining
locations cannot get into the host dining site and this leads
to “propped” doors
or the feeling that they are not welcomed at the house. A
OneCard reader at all dining locations would also allow us
to review patterns of behavior and
provide data that could be used to respond to requests for
As we discussed improving dining flexibility
with options at the Campus Center and/or further consolidation,
community and communication issues. For example, some house
announcements are made at meal time by the tradition of “clinking” glasses.
One student suggested that further thought be given to having
a dining room not attached
to a residential house.
At all meetings, many students voiced
a strong desire for a partial meal plan as an option. There
is great interest
in not having
to pay for
meals that they do not eat. Breakfast and some weekend dining
are the meals that students miss most often. A few students
stated, "I never eat breakfast;
more consolidation for this meal would be ok." This
cost sensitivity would also be expressed by the frustration
that we do not make food and beverages
available around the clock.
Another area that sparked great
interest was menu variety. Students' desire for greater variety
was reinforced by the
a consulting dietitian
from Tufts University (Appendix 10). She reviewed our menus
and conducted some focus groups in early February (see Appendix
and the consultant
saw a need for more menu options, less fat, more variety,
more lean protein items, and more ethnic foods (only if seasoned
properly!). In addition,
while many students stated that there have been major improvements
and especially vegan options, there continues to be a strong
voice for more vegan options and to include organic food
interest in making seasonal, locally-grown and organic food
part of the
Smith dining program. There is also an interest in providing
a kosher/halal dining option, but not necessarily at the
expense of the current
Kosher Kitchen. Most students recognized the need to provide
be able to serve kosher and halal meals.
The college has an opportunity to provide
some truly creative approaches to respond to the students and their interest
in a more flexible
dining program. Many students desire better options and
products. The challenge
will be to
strike a balance between today's traditional dining program
and a more flexible program that will provide greater
options in the
Campus Center. The committee recognizes that there will
be financial implications as we explore new options. If it is
to keep the current dining
operation (19 kitchens) and offer substantially greater
services, we recommend that a number of meal plan scenarios
and options be explored,
testing the financial impact of those against the existing
house dining program. By and large, students understand
the need to balance traditional dining with other alternatives.
Due to the tensions between the consideration
of further dining consolidations to achieve more flexibility and options,
the strong desire not
to change the house dining system, we recommend that further
be conducted. Despite the fact that students desire more
options, there is a
real fear that
major changes to house dining will be detrimental.
Acknowledge and maintain the positive
and rewarding aspects of the house dining program.
Expand options to meet student
demand for more variety, longer hours,
Expand opportunities for students to meet each
other by dining in other houses, especially at lunch.
The Task Force recognizes that
re-adjustment of some of our traditional dining rooms will be necessary to
accomplish more dining
Short-Term recommendations (to be implemented
- Move hot breakfast hours to 7:30-9:00 a.m.
and assess participation.
- Keep one large dining location open for all students
to 8:00 p.m. and assess participation.
- Establish a menu committee
to address the dietitian's recommendations and students' suggestions.
Interterm courses (taught by RADS staff) to provide training for students
- Monitor waste in dining halls and expand
- Provide additional
training for RADS cooks in more cuisines (vegetarian, ethnic, etc.).
- Open a kosher/halal dining facility
by converting a current kitchen.
offering different menus in different areas of the campus.
- Consider specialized
diet: vegetarian, vegan, low-fat, low-carbohydrate,
- Explore ways to increase dining
flexibility so that students
may utilize dining options
at the Campus
expansion of OneCard
- Conduct feasibility study
to address students' interest
- Improve access to houses
via OneCard for flexibility
- Utilize more organic
foods and local foods.
majority of capacity in traditional
- Increase apartment-style
for students where students
may do all
their own cooking.
full kitchens in some houses to be
cooking and sanitation training
a venue where food
of the students'
a feasibility study