New Options Provide Better Food Accessibility in Conservatory

Amber Scherer is a member of the Conservatory Council of Students, an elected body of students that works with College and Conservatory administrations to represent the Conservatory’s student body.

Grab-and-go lunch in the Conservatory began in early October, due to efforts by the Conservatory Council of Students, the Office of the Dean of Students, and Campus Dining Services. The change was a response to student outcry, particularly within the Conservatory, over the lack of lunch options on South Campus. The Conservatory Council of Students conducted a survey, and published the results in the Review, which depicted a student body frustrated by their dining options (“CDS Must Address All Accessibility, Health Concerns,” Sept. 28, 2018).

A number of students reported skipping meals, spending excess money on non-CDS food, and a need for better vegan and vegetarian options.

The grab-and-go lunch is housed in the McGregor Skybar, an overpass between the Kohl Building and Robertson Hall. Monday through Friday, students can now use meal swipes, Obie Dollars, and Flex Points to purchase food. CCS recently conducted a follow-up survey among Conservatory students, receiving 40 responses. Fifty percent of respondents eat in the Skybar three to four times per week, and 22 percent of respondents eat meals there Monday through Friday. None reported eating there “Occasionally” or “Never.” Additionally, 65.6 percent of respondents stated that they spend less money on their meals because of the Skybar. Nearly 100 percent of respondents stated that the addition of the Skybar has improved their dining experience. 97.5 percent of survey participants stated that the Skybar Grab-and-Go has had a positive impact on the Conservatory. None perceived the change as having a negative or negligible effect.

Where the Skybar grab-and-go elicits more conflicting responses, though, is regarding its fulfillment of students’ dietary needs. One student wrote, “There are few vegan and vegetarian options for main dishes — on Oct. 5, the only option was [a peanut butter and jelly sandwich] or a salad with cheese on it.” Nonetheless, 53.1 percent of survey participants reported that the Skybar options fulfilled their nutrition requirements for lunch.

“We are really grateful for the responsiveness of the CDS to the needs of Conservatory students” Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs Mary K. Gray wrote in an email to the Review. “With the new breakfast and lunch services in the Skybar, we see a space vibrantly transformed into a lively, active, communal area for our students. The food service in the Skybar allows many more students access to food during busy parts of the day but also creates new social opportunities, which is great.”

The Skybar, a previously underutilized space, has now become a social center in the Conservatory. It also fills the vacancy left by the closing of Dascomb Dining Hall — which closed over this past summer — where Conservatory students primarily ate lunch.
“Dascomb was a place for all of my friends to meet for lunch to just unwind for 30 to 40 minutes in our busy days and just laugh,” Troy Stephenson, a junior Viola major, wrote to the Review. “I do miss the connections associated with Dascomb.”

The Skybar has also provided new social opportunities for students. Music majors often have eclectic schedules, as rehearsals and practices aren’t regularly blocked like College classes, making it difficult for students to make and meet with friends outside of meal times.

Campus Dining Services has made a concerted effort to provide accessible food to Conservatory students. Quotes like “Grab-and-Go at the Skybar is very convenient and a huge time-saver, which is everything when you’re a Con student. Please keep it up and running!” are representative of many statements submitted to CCS in its recent survey, demonstrating its positive impact.