Penn Hillel announced a series of changes Wednesday in their dining hall, Falk Dining Commons, set to begin in the fall.
Due to financial issues, the dining hall will change from meal swipe to Dining Dollar payment for a la carte items, similar to Houston Hall. On Shabbat and holidays, using a meal swipe plus a surcharge will still be an option. Falk itself will also be undergoing renovations.
The meal swipe system was losing money for a long time, said a Hillel official, who wished to remain anonymous.
“With a culture of swipes, friends swipe each other in, and campus makes money with people not using all of their swipes,” the official added. “You can really go to town in that dining hall … you can just eat until you explode.”
Director of Business Services of Penn Dining Pam Lampitt added that fewer students have been choosing to eat at Falk.
“Due to the nature of kosher food preparation, both the actual food expense and the staffing and operational costs associated with maintaining separate kitchen and dishwashing operations, delivering high quality Glatt kosher dining is expensive,” she said in an email. “While this has always been true, a combination of reductions in students eating at Falk and the continued escalation of food and other costs required us to make changes.”
Business Services worked with the leadership in Penn Hillel for over a year while deciding to make the change, Lampitt added. The shift reflect Penn’s efforts to create alternatives to all-you-can-eat dining, according to Penn Hillel President and College junior Josh Cooper.
Along with these changes, Penn is funding a renovation of Hillel’s dining hall to incorporate a new lounge and study spaces. Members of Hillel hope that the renovations will increase the sense of community found in the dining hall.
Hillel’s menu will also be undergoing alterations.
“Moving to an all meat and parve menu with dairy available for special events was one of the decisions where we believe we retained most of the menu items that were popular while allowing ways to provide variation in the menu for special events,” Lampitt said.
The menu will change seasonally and will offer daily specials. Hillel will soon send out a student survey asking for input about the new menu.
Next year is also the first year that Dining Dollars-only meal plans will be offered to upperclassmen — allowing students who keep kosher to continue eating at Hillel without wasting meal swipes. Although freshmen still must have a meal plan with swipes, those with kosher diets can work with Hillel to obtain a Dining Dollar-only plan.
The new system may be problematic for vegetarians. According to kosher customs, the dining hall doesn’t serve milk and meat together and currently alternates days when milk and meat are served. Next year, the dining hall will only have meat days — meaning that they will no longer serve dairy products.
Students who frequent Hillel had a variety of reactions to the change in the plan.
“I think meat days are better than dairy days, but I do like having the diversity and I do like ice cream on dairy days,” College sophomore Aviva Koloski said.
Aside from the new system’s financial advantages, members of the Hillel community are hopeful that the Dining Dollar system will be more flexible for students. Currently, students without meal swipes have to pay $17.85 for all you care to eat dinner at Falk Commons.
For Friday night Shabbat dinners and holidays, however, the dining hall will accept both meal swipes and Dining Dollars. Hillel will also begin subsidizing Shabbat dinners to make them more affordable.
“On face value, it looks like a big loss,” Cooper said. “[But it] puts a big opportunity on us to include more kosher dairy food in our programming.”
Staff writer Jeremy Jick contributed reporting.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.