Takeout options can greatly benefit UMD students
Written by: Ariana Tsegai 🇪🇷
Students walking in front of the South Campus Diner in College Park, MD on March 27, 2023. (Justin Guzman)
The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on higher education, forcing universities and colleges to adapt to newer safety protocols that attempted to prioritize the safety of students, faculty, and staff.
One of the most significant changes that the University of Maryland implemented was suspending the takeout option for their dining services. While this move was necessary during the peak of the pandemic, the decision not to offer takeout options has left students perplexed.
It’s no secret that students deal with a lot throughout the semester, from attending classes to studying for exams. Students have full-time schedules that leave very minimal time for leisure activities, let alone cooking and dining in.
A study done at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that cooking frequency was relatively low amongst students, with results ranging from 45.7% of students reporting that they often cook, 40.3% reported sometimes cooking, and 14% reported never cooking.
This study found that cooking frequency ranges from various factors such as race, gender, living situation, accommodations, and more.
If we simply look at the statistics given, we see that around 54% of college students are sometimes/never eating while at school and this has become a national issue.
What we see around college campuses is that due to these time constraints, students may have to skip meals or resort to unhealthier options with negative consequences.
I can recall my own experience this semester with very limited time in between classes to eat, because of these constraints I’ve had to resort to easy-to-eat meals or snacks.
The University of Maryland stopped offering a takeout dining option for the first time since the spring 2020 semester and the decision is a significant misstep that is detrimental to students’ well-being and academic success.
With the campus fully reopened, it is crucial that the university reinstates its takeout system to provide students with the convenience and flexibility they deserve.
We can see that students want a takeout option at the dining halls, and if it was once implemented here on campus – why remove it? YikYak, a popular social media site, had multiple reviews from UMD students regarding complaints about the lack of takeout options in the dining hall.
Students feel that they should have the option of taking food out instead of eating an unlimited amount of times in one sitting. Which is unrealistic for most students who are looking for easier alternatives to find time to eat.
A takeout system in the dining halls can introduce a new method of waste reduction by providing meals to students who are food insecure.
They can take these meals home, and if the reason why the takeout system was eliminated was due to concerns of social distancing and Covid exposure, the university can reduce the number of students eating in the dining halls at any given time and allow for a safer dining experience for everyone.
According to a study done by the University of Maryland’s Division of Student Affairs, about 20% of UMD students that were surveyed were food insecure at some point in the 12 months preceding this survey.
As we know from research, food insecurity has a prevalent impact on the well-being of students, academic performance, and other aspects of development.
The University of Maryland’s Division of Student Affairs also conducted a food access & student well-being assessment that analyzed the needs of their students, and within the assessment are options to get involved with closing the gap of food insecurity on campus such as the campus food pantry that has served thousands of students since 2014.
If the University wishes to address the concerns of food insecurity and waste, the takeout option can be reinstalled so that students aren’t limited at the dining hall, and food that isn’t being served can go to students who are facing food insecurity instead of the trash.
That being said, The University of Maryland should bring back the takeout option in their dining halls. By doing so, they are giving their students the flexibility to manage their time effectively, and it allows the university to rectify it and prioritize their students' needs.
With the campus fully reopened, it is more important than ever to provide students with the resources they need to succeed academically and personally.