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In the midst of a late-season snowstorm and a campus largely closed for the week, students staying at the College over spring break were faced with another obstacle in feeding themselves: the introduction of Crimson Cash grants to replace the pilot cash grant program used last year. These grants, which are reserved for students on substantial financial aid, aim to ensure that students do not need to dig into their own finances to buy groceries while staying on campus. All dining halls are closed during spring break, a significant problem for the students who find it financially inviable to fly home for their week off from classes.
While we applaud the College attempting to ease the financial burden of grocery shopping for low-income students, its method of doing so is unfortunately excessively restrictive and paternalistic. Crimson Cash can only be used at a handful of locations in the Square, many of which are high-end restaurants and thus impractical for students on a budget. Only two grocery stores, Broadway Marketplace and H Mart, accept Crimson Cash, making it impossible for students wishing to shop at cheaper options in the neighborhood to do so. Additionally, for students with dietary restrictions or allergies, finding healthy options at the highly limited range of restaurants open to them can be prohibitively difficult.
The most equitable way for Harvard to assist low-income students is by keeping at least one dining hall open during break, a method used two years ago. There are many students who do not fit the College’s criteria for receiving spring break grants, yet still struggle to afford the cost of food for the week. Keeping a dining hall open enables these students to feed themselves as well, and can also foster a sense of community over the break as students share meals in an accessible, free location that meets most dietary restrictions.
Regardless, students, not the College, are best equipped to buy the food that meets their needs. If factors such as worker contracts and cost of keeping a dining hall running over break impede with the College’s ability to keep dining halls open, returning to a cash grant system would enable students to purchase nutritious groceries that accommodate any dietary restrictions. This method would also be more affordable. Rather than having to spend their Crimson Cash grants at the Square’s high-end restaurants and potentially run out of money before the dining halls reopen, students could stock up on groceries to last them all of break. No students should have to worry about affording food over spring break or using their own savings to purchase meals for the week.
We urge Harvard to rethink how it distributes aid over break. Students know their own dietary needs better than the College does. An open dining hall or cash grant provides flexibility, which is more important than a Harvard-subsidized steak dinner in the Square.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.
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