The College has implemented different pilot programs in recent years to provide food for students during the nine-day spring recess. Last year, students on certain levels of financial aid received cash grants to use for food; now, students will only be able use Harvard funds at locations that accept Crimson Cash.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 756 students will receive the $25 Crimson Cash stipend for each day they are on campus this year, according to College spokesperson Rachael Dane.
David R. Friedrich, associate dean of students, said the College piloted Crimson Cash grants for the first time during winter recess—before the dining halls were open—in December and January.
“The Dean’s Office, over the last three years, has been piloting different approaches to support students during breaks when the dining halls are closed,” Friedrich said. “[The] goal has been to try and direct this to students who are part of the [Harvard Financial Aid Initiative] and so we look to the Financial Aid office to tell us who is eligible based on that criteria.”
If the College did not originally notify individuals that they were eligible, students could petition their resident dean to participate in the program on an “opt-in” basis, Friedrich said.
“If students who were not eligible based on the criteria we have established have extenuating circumstances, they can work with their resident dean to discuss their situation and we can respond to them,” Friedrich said.
Austin R. Sams ’18-’19, though, said he did not remember seeing an email about the spring break grants until notified by a friend.
“I didn’t receive an email regarding one of the grants. One of my friends happened to mention it and I know she and I are on similar financial aid,” he said. “The main reason I’m staying here over spring break are because flights are expensive going home.”
For many years, the College did not provide any dining options to undergraduates who remained on campus for spring break. A College diversity working group suggested that some dining halls be kept open following similar recommendations the Undergraduate Council passed in 2013 to address the concerns of students on financial assistance.
In 2015, a one-year pilot allowed all undergraduates who stayed on campus to eat in the few open dining halls. Last year, however, the College closed them during spring recess in favor of providing grants to qualifying students based on financial aid calculations. The stipends were electronically transferred to students, allowing them to use the funds anywhere.
Crimson Cash locations in Harvard Square include B. good, Liquiteria, and Qdoba, in addition to CVS and Broadway Marketplace. In contrast to the cash stipend, some students thought that providing Crimson Cash grants could limit food selection. The Square is already considered a “low-access zone” to grocery stores by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which qualifies the area as a “food desert.”
“Qdoba is the only restaurant I can think of that I would regularly spend Crimson Cash,” Matthew J. Holloway ’20, who is receiving the grant, said. “I would prefer it be the stipend in cash.”
Trevor A. Mullin ’17, who also participated in the program last year, said that only being able to spend Crimson Cash limits his options to pricier Square-based establishments.
“I think it does present a problem because usually when I’m faced with a week of feeding myself, I go to Target and choose options where I can be myself,” Mullin said. “Only Crimson Cash is slightly more paternalistic in the options you can take.”
Friedrich said that the Office of Student Life generally encourages Houses and student groups to organize small-scale events during the break to provide free food to students.
‘We don’t want it to turn into a programming time of year, but want opportunities for the community when students may be around campus to get together and have some food,” Friedrich said.
—Staff writer Junina Furigay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @junina_furigay.