Let’s talk about Valentine Dining Hall, or as most of the college community endearingly calls it, Val. It’s a commonality shared among most students, faculty and staff. It is also a source of many complains — conversations about Val can be as boring as ones about how cold Amherst gets.
Yet, most students commend Val for what it does. Dozens of staff members work hard to routinely serve fresh ingredients to thousands of people. Our dining hall stays open during a wide range of hours to accommodate busy schedules and time constraints. It’s not winning all the awards (though it wins some), but it does the job well. What must be recognized, furthermore, is Val’s constant updates that reflect student demands. This school year, Val has also been experimenting with new menu items and ways to customize the main meals. Furthermore, customizable options like the lunchtime Burrito and Burger Bars, introduce variety to our relatively small dining hall.
While the content of Val’s meals has improved, the Editorial Board continues to observe problems with the dining hall’s format. As we all know, the problem is at its worst during lunchtime. But even throughout the day, the two lines for the main meal in Val cause unnecessary confusion and are and often hard to navigate. Additionally, some lines like for salads or soup, combine into one large line for two separate items creating even more congestion and confusion.
These problems may simply be a limitation of the space at Val, but there seems to be a better way to optimize the space by creating better line demarcations or food placement. Utilizing other spaces to serve food for lunch like the Science Center or creating a more efficient manner to get food at Grab and Go may alleviate these space constraints.
The lunch rushes on weekdays mean students have to wait upwards of 15 minutes to get a meal. A potential solution should consider efficacy, like pre-made portion sizes or preparing materials in anticipation of the rush so that people aren’t waiting when a certain item temporarily runs out. This congestion also translates to the overflow of people going to Grab ‘n’ Go, which now sometimes fails to be a place where people can grab food and go efficiently or quickly.
We applaud and encourage the Val staff to continue improving the Amherst dining experience. Simultaneously, we suggest that students be more proactive about their dining experiences. Instead of voicing annoyance over the substitution of macaroni and cheese for squash pasta in a group chat, write a comment card. Additionally, there are already ways to improve a meal at Val through a bit of creativity that don’t require mindlessly insulting the meal. It’s time we stop complaining and remember why we love Val in the first place — it’s a place where we see friends, enjoy some stir-fry and even just sit for hours on end (#ValSit).