Quick Questions: Why is Val Overcrowded?

Staff writer Nife Joshua ’26 answers a quick question about recent overcrowding in Valentine Dining Hall as part of longer-term reporting on Val.

Quick Questions: Why is Val Overcrowded?
The removal of to-go boxes last semester has contributed to increased demand for seating at mealtime. Photo courtesy of Amherst College

Valentine Dining Hall has undergone several changes recently, from new menu items to the departure of to-go boxes. One of the most impactful changes to the student dining experience, however, seems to be the long lines and packed tables at the height of mealtimes.

Overcrowding at Valentine has increasingly become a concern for many students, faculty, and staff. On some days, it seems that only a lucky handful of diners can find an open table. Some students have observed that the peak hours in Val for lunch tend to be right after class in the afternoon, 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., while the busiest times for dinner are around 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. “I think 6 [p.m.] is just the time when most people have no meetings or other plans,” said Dylan Vrins ’26.

The discontinuation of to-go boxes is another probable factor related to Val’s recent overcrowding problem. “Now everyone has to go and get a table to sit down at and eat at Val,” Gretta Ineza ’26 said. “Discontinuing the use of to-go boxers could be a significant factor contributing to the crowding at Val, especially during peak hours.”

When students were asked about whether they preferred to eat at the dining hall or at Grab-n-Go, there were mixed reviews. “I honestly think people go to both, but because a lot of [the] time, Grab-n-Go doesn’t have as many options as Val, people will go to the dining hall,” Dominion Femi-Jegede ’26 said. The introduction of new popular menu items might just tip the scales, making Valentine Dining Hall the go-to choice during lunch periods, potentially leading to even larger crowds.

Solutions to overcrowding range in approaches among students. Ephrata Getachew ’26, for example, proposed a reevaluation of the to-go box policy, which would increase the number of people who took dinner out during peak times. Dylan Vrins ’26, on the other hand, suggested increasing Val’s capacity.“I think they should put in a few more tables at the start of the year,” he said.

Staff Writer Nife Joshua ’26 will update this story in a follow-up article in the coming weeks.