As Tufts University shifts back to more of an in-person experience for students, faculty and staff, Tufts Dining has modified the ways in which it operates, allowing for greater dine-in occupancy while limiting meal swipe options at the university’s dining centers and cafes.
During the 2020–21 academic year, many on-campus cafes accepted meal swipes in addition to Dewick MacPhie Dining Center, Carmichael Dining Center, Hodgdon Food-on-the-Run and Pax et Lox, all of which had traditionally accepted meal swipes as a form of payment.
“The use of meal swipes in additional locations last year was a COVID action to de-densify our typically crowded Dining Centers,” Patti Klos, director of dining services, wrote in an email to the Daily.
For the fall 2021 semester, Tufts Dining is reverting back to a pre-pandemic dining model, since the dining options that traditionally did not accept meal swipes but did so last year are not designed to handle the amount of traffic generated by accepting meal swipes.
“The cafes that accepted meal swipes are not sized to accommodate the increased amount of traffic,” Klos said. “We don’t have the space to store food, produce it, or serve it in a sustained way. For the 2021-2022 academic year we’ve returned to our pre-COVID operating model for where meal swipes can be used, except that you can still use meal swipes at Kindlevan Café.”
According to Klos, the reasoning for including Kindlevan in the meal plan this year is to help accommodate STEM students who may spend a large portion of their day in and around the Science and Engineering Complex, and therefore may have a hard time returning to the main area of campus, and the dining halls, for meals.
Valerie Zhang, a student on a meal plan, said she is growing tired of the constantly changing procedures for ordering food. However, Zhang welcomes in-person dining as a sign of positive change on campus.
“It’s still a nuisance as students have grown used to last year’s dining system,” Zhang, a sophomore, said. “[But] it feels a little more like a normal dining experience.”
Senior Cassidy Bartolomei echoed Zhang’s sentiments on the difficulty of adapting to constantly changing dining procedures. Like Zhang, Bartolomei appreciated the ease of using meal swipes at campus cafes to grab food while studying.
“Swipes only being accepted at [fewer] locations makes dining a hassle,” Bartolomei wrote in an email to the Daily. “Being able to use a meal swipe at a [campus cafe] made it very convenient to grab a quick bite while also studying.”
Klos affirmed that the Tufts Dining mobile app will remain in use this semester, and it will be used to pre-order food, which is an option still available at all dining locations, as well as show which dining centers are open, announce special events and earn loyalty points. This semester, Pax et Lox and Tower Café are pre-order only.
“You can still pre-order from any location — including take-out meals from [Carm2GO] and Dewick2GO — using the app,” Klos said. “So you can save time by ordering in advance rather than standing in line.”
According to Klos, Tufts Dining took the perspective of the student body into account when making changes to its dining policy for this academic year.
“Students’ preferences and perceptions are considered when making improvements to our program,” Klos said. “Their ideas are balanced with business realities, physical constraints, limited resources, and the practicality of implementation.”
The cost of the meal plan has also changed, but this change is not abnormal.
“The cost of a meal plan, like the cost of housing, tuition and fees, typically increases slightly each year,” Klos said. “This is due to rising costs such as wages for staff, as well as materials, foods and related goods that are required to support the program.”