Dinkytown Crisp & Green looks to collaborate with UMN

Crisp & Green is working with the Minnesota Student Association to make healthy food more accessible to students.

A salad is prepared for customers at Crisp & Green in Dinkytown on Saturday, Oct. 12.

Jasmin Kemp

A salad is prepared for customers at Crisp & Green in Dinkytown on Saturday, Oct. 12.

by Samantha Hendrickson

In response to the Minnesota Student Association’s advocacy for healthier dining options on campus, local restaurant chain Crisp & Green is trying to collaborate with University of Minnesota students regarding healthy eating. 

After reading about student concerns with current University dining, Lily Smith, a University graduate and co-founder of Crisp & Green, called the undergraduate student government to be more involved with the University. Last week, the Board of Regents approved an up to two-year extension with the disputed food contractor Aramark. During this time, the University will consider its options: continue its relationship with Aramark, choose a new food contractor or become self-operated. 

Because there is uncertainty surrounding the University’s dining future, Smith said she is hopeful to address healthy-eating concerns by collaborating with students.

“Being somebody who was involved in student government myself, I thought that I should probably reach out to [MSA] on what we could possibly do here to offer [healthy food] to students,” Smith said. 

Smith stated that in the beginning of 2019, Crisp & Green reached out to the University about participating in FlexDine, a program that allows meal plan holders and other individuals to purchase money for an account to be used at campus dining locations. 

Current FlexDine-accepting locations at the University, like Panda Express, Chick-fil-A and Starbucks, are owned by Aramark. Revenue from sales using FlexDine go directly to Aramark, with commission paid to the University. 

Crisp & Green was denied, Smith said, on account of the program being “filled up” and Crisp & Green’s Dinkytown location “technically not being on campus.” She said she hopes that with MSA, they can find other ways to make Crisp & Green more accessible to people in the community. 

“When it comes to healthy and nutritious options, campus has been underserved for quite some time. CRISP & GREEN provides convenient and delicious options for everyone, regardless of their dietary preferences and restrictions,” said Kris Humphries, franchise partner and former Gophers basketball star, in a statement to the Minnesota Daily.

Some students at the Dinkytown restaurant expressed their love of the healthy options on a fast-food-crowded campus, but also said the high prices are concerning.

“I think it’s a good addition to the campus area … there’s nothing other than this that’s really fresh and healthy and easy-access,” said economics major Sophia Urbaniak. “[The price range] is a little bit high, but … you eat crappy for four years straight, then it’s gonna affect you hard when you get out of college.”

Recent University graduate Jazamyn Young stated that she wished she was more aware of Crisp & Green during her time as a student, and though “spendy” and a little far from campus, she loves the chain. 

Smith acknowledged the loftier prices for the menu items, but noted that high prices equals high quality.

“There’s a cost to [healthy ingredients], but we want students to leave here being like, ‘That felt worth it to me,’ because of that fact that I know what I’m putting in my body,” Smith said.

Regarding meetings between Crisp & Green and MSA, Levi O’Tool, MSA’s Campus Life Committee chair, said that while the contact extension still has to go through its cycle, MSA and Smith spoke about what they can work on in the meantime. 

MSA and Crisp & Green are working together to discuss options like an on-campus drop-off location for menu items ordered ahead of time, as well as more student awareness to discounts from the Crisp & Green loyalty program and free community fitness events. 

“What really came across in our meeting was how invested [Crisp & Green is] in students,” O’Tool said.