Smith dining: what’s the issue?

PHOTO BY SARAH YAMASHITA ’22 | ASSISTANT PHOTO EDITOR  At meals, Northrop-Gillett is always working at overcapacity, something has change.

PHOTO BY SARAH YAMASHITA ’22 | ASSISTANT PHOTO EDITOR

At meals, Northrop-Gillett is always working at overcapacity, something has change.

Hazel Garrity ’21 | Contributing Writer

As a bright-eyed incoming first year, many things about Smith excited me. The house communities, beautiful campus, lack of general education requirements and especially, the variety of dining options, were the major reasons I chose to come to Smith.

I was coming from a high school where there were absolutely no vegan options other than some shriveled lettuce and a couple of sad baby carrots — no dressing. The idea of being fed well and having at least two square meals a day was very appealing to me.

Once I got on campus, I was not disappointed; the entirely vegan and vegetarian dining hall had many things that I could eat, and it tasted great. I found a group of friends who liked to or needed to eat in Gillett, and we settled into a pretty comfortable routine.

During our first week, we noticed the long lines, lack of plates and utensils, overflow of students and general chaotic energy of Northrop-Gillett, but we attributed this to the newness of the semester and everyone figuring out where they like to eat best.

As the year progressed, it became obvious that this was not the case. The lines, brimming with people, and stress-filled environment persisted. Most frequenters of Northrop-Gillett know the feeling of tension in the room and the mad dash you have to make to get up and stand in line, usually well before 5:30 p.m.

The Northrop-Gillett staff are some of the best and most patient people on our campus, and the food is well-known for being consistently good. The influx of students who are trying to eat less meat are more than welcome, but the pressure of an over-capacity dining hall affects everyone, not just the students.

More often than not, there are people waiting for plates, forks or cups, and the staff has to work as fast as they possibly can to get the dishes out to the students. The business and pressure stresses me out as a person who eats there, but I cannot imagine how much stress the people who work there are under.

The stressful environment is not only uncomfortable but also inaccessible. Several times Northrop-Gillett has proved too crowded and tension-filled to handle with my anxiety, and I had to leave or face having a panic attack, often not being able to eat after leaving due to a lack of options.

I also know people who have suffered injuries and concussions that make it impossible for them to eat at Northrop-Gillett for fear of being hit in the head or further injured because of how uncomfortably crowded it gets. It is also completely inaccessible to students with physical disabilities, who might need more room. Not only is this is unacceptable, Northrop-Gillett’s overcrowdedness alienates and underfeeds many students at Smith who cannot easily eat at every dining hall.

I tried to take breaks from Gillett. While it is clear that Smith Dining has recently been making a conscious effort to make more vegan-friendly food, the options are still limited. Even when there are options for people who do not, or are trying to eat less meat, there is still the issue of cross-contamination and accidents.

Twice while eating in King-Scales dining hall, I have found meat in my food that was accidentally dropped into the vegan/vegetarian dish while in line. This is not a chance I can take because ingesting meat would make me sick. It also isn’t an option for people who stay away from meat for religious reasons. I fully appreciate that Smith is making efforts to feed the vegetarian, vegan and meat-avoiding students, but the demand for more options is on the rise. Another vegan and vegetarian dining hall needs to be added on our campus.

I propose that we convert Wilson dining hall into a vegan and vegetarian dining hall. We don’t have to build a new building.

We have started a group of people who are interested in fighting for more dining options. Please email at hgarrity@smith.edu or message me on Facebook if you would like to be involved!