When Hodgdon Food-on-the-Run closed on March 10 for remodeling, many Tufts students were upset with the lack of dining options on campus and the temporary shutdown. Hodgdon Food-on-the-Run, affectionately nicknamed “Hodge,” serves as a staple for grab-and-go snacks or quick takeout meals. This semester it reopened after closing for the remainder of the 2022–23 school year.
When students returned to campus this fall, they were greeted with a renovated Hodgdon Food-on-the-Run. However, Hodgdon not only looks different, but its policies have changed. Students are now only able to use one swipe per meal period at the location. The change to the swipe policy is not new, but rather a reversion back to what the system was before COVID-19.
Patti Klos, Tufts University director of dining and business services, explained that the rationale for the one-swipe policy was to help production run more smoothly at retail locations including Pax et Lox Kosher Deli, SMFA Café and Hodgdon.
“The practice of one swipe per meal period in retail was a long standing practice that was suspended during COVID, and it was important to be able to return to that … There’s an imbalance in the ability to support demand relative to the way that program was designed with one swipe per meal period in those retails,” Klos said.
Klos shared that snacks and other auxiliary purchases could be made using JumboCash, not a meal swipe. The meal deals at Hodgdon are designed to equate to a meal swipe, with JumboCash used for extra goods like drinks and sides. While students are frustrated with the adjustment in policy, Klos explained that Hodgdon was created to augment the experience of all-you-can-eat dining centers, not match it.
Additionally, if students are ordering Hodgdon online, they can not combine their meal swipe and Jumbocash if they go over the meal price equivalency. Students must use Jumbocash if they exceed the value of one meal swipe.
Katie McConnell, a sophomore, expressed her frustration regarding the limitations.
“It feels inconsiderate when you have 400 swipes, and they’re limiting when you can use them because no one’s going to the dining hall 10 times a day,” she said.
In addition to changes made to meal swipe policies, multiple on-campus dining locations have been under renovation in the last year. Klos explained that these changes are part of a larger dining hall improvement initiative.
“Hodgdon and Kindlevan are actually part of a longer term commitment the university has made to improving and enhancing the current dining program,” Klos said. “Part of how the decision was made is the size and scope of the work that needed to be done.”
With the renovations, Hodgdon has seen improvements in kitchen equipment and better services, and the staff has been able to work more efficiently.
“The way that [Hodgdon] was laid out … no longer supported a great experience. We had the means, we had the time frame and made the commitment … to invest in that facility to be able to improve its throughput, make it easier to navigate for the students, and to be able to use the existing square footage more effectively,” Klos said.
However, students do not think all the changes in the renovation have been for the best.
“The food definitely is an easier flow, but the line for checkout still doesn’t work very well,” McConnell said. “I respect the workers so much, they are always there with a good morning and a smile. But there’s just a flaw to the system.”
In contrast, Hodgdon Food-on-the-Run employees are hopeful about the renovation’s success. Jason Lee, a sophomore student worker and manager at Hodgdon, explained that when the dining location closed down, students had high expectations for improvements.
“I think there was also a ton of hype with closing Hodge down. They made a big deal about the closing and renovating, but I think it is a better system and it will just take time for staff and customers to get used to it,” Lee said.
Lee added that he thinks there is still room for improvement. He thinks the bigger issue is the lack of student workers who are needed to efficiently run Hodgdon.
Hodgdon relies on its student workers to keep it running and to open as many stations as possible. Tufts Dining, which has job applications open year round, has not hired a full capacity staff yet due to the recent start of the academic year.
While students want to see Hodgdon back to its full capacity, they have complaints about the current variety of meal options available.
“I’ve had some late nights where the dining hall has been closed and all they have is [burritos] which is good but definitely missing the variety,” McConell said.
Klos emphasized that the dining service is attempting to explore more variety in their supply of items at Hodgdon as well throughout this year.
“You can expect to see some adaptations of menu items over the course of the semester and into the spring semester as we are able to test the ability of the equipment,” Klos said.
Now, Klos is focusing on making sure the setbacks are resolved in a timely manner.
“We strive to provide great service and we’re human. We’re working through major changes to two beloved facilities [Hodgdon and Kindlevan] … we appreciate the investments the university has made, but we’re all making an adjustment together.”