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East Campus first-years appreciate Marketplace alternatives but are frustrated with communication, long lines

<p>With Marketplace closed, students wait for food at a food truck on East Campus.</p>

With Marketplace closed, students wait for food at a food truck on East Campus.

After the closure of Marketplace and Trinity Café, first-years living on East Campus have resorted to waiting in long food-truck lines and stocking up on several meals at a time from West Campus vendors.

Marketplace and Trinity Café have been closed since March 27 after several Marketplace dining staff tested positive for COVID-19. They will reopen Monday, April 12, according to a Sunday email from Student Affairs.

According to the March 22 to 28 COVID-19 testing update, 13 of the 18 new cases among faculty and staff were connected to the Marketplace outbreak.

Marketplace swipes were converted to food points to accommodate students living on East Campus, all of whom have Meal Plan I, which uses a combination of Marketplace swipes and food points. First-years on Meal Plan I had 17 swipes from the closure through April 4 converted to an equivalent 263.43 food points. 

Meal swipes for any additional weeks that Marketplace remained closed would be converted into food points, Duke Dining wrote in an email to The Chronicle. An additional 211.53 food points were added to replace the 14 swipes from the week from April 4 to 11. 

Despite Duke’s attempts to provide alternative meal options to first-years living on East Campus, some first-years said that they wished information regarding the situation had been communicated more clearly. 

First-year Erica Ham thought that last week’s 263.43 extra food points would have to last her through the rest of the spring semester, and she was worried about how she would be able to afford food. 

“When I calculated it, they only gave us about eight extra dollars per day, and that is not enough to cover breakfast and dinner,” Ham said March 30.

When she found out that she had been given another 211.53 food points this week, she was very relieved.

“My only issue is that I wish they had been more explicit with how they are giving us food points,” she wrote in an email April 2.

Students can use food points to buy food from any Duke Dining venue, including Merchants on Points offerings. In addition, Three Seasons Catering is currently offering catered breakfast, brunch and dinner meals in East Campus Union, and there is currently a regular rotation of food trucks on East Campus. 

Some first-years did not think the information about alternative food options was broadcasted widely enough. As of April 2, only one email had been sent to students that explained different meal options and where they were available.

First-year Melissa Adams was not aware of the food truck option until April 1, when her friend Alyzea Benjamin, also a first-year, happened to see a post about it on Duke Dining’s Instagram.

“I don’t think they advertised it as heavily as they probably could have,” Adams said April 2. “This is my second day [eating dinner from the food trucks.] Yesterday was really good, so I have high expectations,” she said, nodding down at her pasta from Fiori Trattoria.

Robert Coffey, executive director of Dining Services, did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

Benjamin agreed with Adams that the food trucks serve delicious food. In terms of quality of food, she likes this temporary alternative food situation better than swiping in at Marketplace twice a day.

“The food trucks have good food, and I get to eat more on West Campus,” Benjamin said.

However, some first-years noted the inconvenience of having to decide between making extra trips to West Campus just for food and waiting an hour in the food truck line.

First-year Drew Greene said that he usually likes to get a filling breakfast at Marketplace to last him through the day until dinner. However, he said that breakfast options that Three Seasons Catering offers are “really small.”

“It’s not that great. I go to breakfast at like 10:00, 10:15, when it’s been open since 8:00 a.m.” By then, he said, the food is cold.

Greene also mentioned that he had to wait an hour and a half for his dinner from the food trucks last Wednesday. “Yesterday I just figured it'd be more time effective just to go over to West and get my food,” Greene said.

Despite the differing opinions surrounding first years’ alternative meal plan, first-years on East Campus agree on one thing: they miss Marketplace employees.

Although Benjamin likes food from West Campus and food trucks more than Marketplace food, she enjoys interacting with Marketplace workers.

“I like the workers who work here,” Benjamin said. “I like the community here. I miss the workers.” 

Greene says he is glad that Duke closed down Marketplace quickly so that more dining staff are not infected with COVID-19. 

Marketplace workers are “necessary for our life,” he said. “If I didn’t have the Marketplace staff I don’t know where I’d be.”

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