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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

Dining Services to add two restaurants to MOPs

Dining Services will add two restaurants to the Meals on Points (MOPs) program by next semester, supplementing the off-campus choices open to a student body hungry for more dining options.

The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate is planning on including a vote on which restaurants to add in its semesterly survey, which it will put out on Wednesday.

The Senate intends to preface this vote with a fair at which local restaurants vying for the open slots will serve food to students during open block on Wednesday.

Plans to expand the off-campus dining program were derailed last semester, but are "back on track now," Director of Dining Services Patti Klos told the Daily.

"There were more pressing needs and other issues of higher priority at the university [last semester], but things are moving along now," Klos said. "Right now we are in the process of making sure that we can ... accommodate more vendors and, soon enough, students will have more off-campus options."

TCU Parliamentarian C.J. Mourning, who has worked with Klos for two years to improve the MOPs program, is looking forward to the expansion.

"Adding two restaurants to points was something that [the Senate has] been pushing for a while, and this semester Dining Services reached the ability to add them for next semester," she said.

Klos said that Dining Services is looking to revamp its infrastructure to resemble those of other neighboring schools with more comprehensive off-campus dining programs.

"We're taking steps to create that here, to have a MOPs system similar to what they have at Harvard."

The MOPs program currently allows students to use JumboCash, which lets them pay for certain expenses with their identification cards, at six local restaurants. Harvard University's "Crimson Cash" system enables students to purchase food from 28 local restaurants and food stores.

In addition, Harvard students can use their Crimson Cash for dine-in, takeout or delivery orders at any time of the day. At Tufts, students paying with JumboCash can only order delivery from off-campus eateries after 7 p.m. on weeknights and after 1 p.m. on weekends.

Klos said that Dining Services is working to make Tufts' MOPs program more flexible. "I'm aware that students want more off-campus options," she said. "I know that they want to use JumboCash at any time of the day, and they don't want to use it just for delivery, but for walk-ins as well," Klos said.

She said that Dining Services is in the process of installing an automated receipt service for MOPs restaurants. This is a necessary step in adding restaurants to the system. Currently, restaurants must submit the paper receipt for each JumboCash purchase, and staffers at Dining Services must catalog these receipts by hand -- a process widely considered to be time-consuming and cumbersome.

According to Klos, Dining Services is in the "final contract stages" of implementing this automated receipt system, which she estimates will cost around $25,000.

Klos said there is a possibility that students will be able to use JumboCash at stores as well as restaurants, although she said this would have to wait at least until next fall. Some other schools, such as the University of Vermont and George Washington University, offer this option. "We may even open [JumboCash] up to other types of stores, like hardware stores or pharmacies," Klos said.

Mourning expressed her support for extending JumboCash to a variety of locations.

"Being able to use JumboCash at nearby stores would be a great way for Tufts students to build relationships with the local community and store owners," Mourning said. "It would also be more convenient for students to just use their Tufts ID card in the area instead of having to remember to bring cash with them all of the time."

As for the potential for an expanded MOPs system to detract from students' use of on-campus dining establishments, Klos said that she did not know whether adding two new restaurants would negatively impact meal-plan sales.

"Despite increases in our MOPs program, we continue to see increased participation in the meal-plan program here," Klos said.

"Every year over the last five years, the number of people who have purchased meal plans has increased," she noted, adding that this year saw a six-percent spike from last year.

After working to extend the MOPs program as chair of the Senate's Services Committee last year, Mourning is excited to see changes coming to fruition.

"I definitely would say that improving MOPs is one of the bigger concerns that we've heard [from students]," Mourning said.

"Dining Services really is an issue that affects everyone on campus," she added. "It's not like Health Service, where you can be healthy for four years and never have to go see a doctor on campus. Every student on campus has had some experience with Dining Services."

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