In the back of Gibbons Hall is a small to-go eatery that supports the local community’s grown food and promotes a healthy eating lifestyle. Many JMU students aren’t aware of this small dining service because of its hidden placement and lack of popularity. But for others, the deconstruction of Let’s Go! Local for the future D-Hall construction is breaking hearts as well as walls.
“Let’s Go! Local started with an idea: a way of eating and living that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to the community and the environment,” Angela Ritchie, JMU Dining Services’ Marketing Manager, said through email.
Students say that Let’s Go! Local can be a great way to ditch the long lines at other dining facilities during lunch hours, but it's not making the cut for the future plans of D-Hall. After this semester, it will no longer be available.
“Sometimes you don’t want to go to the more popular ones, like Dukes or Top Dog, but you want to go to just a small place,” Mona Abdelhamid, an undeclared freshman, said. “Let’s Go! Local is a nice place where you can just go in and get out. It’s nice to just make your own food than make other people do it.”
According to Ritchie, Let’s Go! Local acquires all of its food from local farmers, unlike D-Hall and E-Hall, with the promise to decrease the mileage of students’ food from the farm to their forks. It makes everything from scratch daily and minimizes sodium, fat and calories to better feed the JMU population.
It’s “food that is good for those who eat it, for the earth and for the people who grow it,” Ritchie said.
It offers many options to create your own sandwich, salad or soft taco. This aspect is what sets Let’s Go! Local apart from JMU’s other dining locations.
“I like that I can make my own salad, as well as the fact that it is generally less crowded than other dining places,” Hannah Dodd, a freshman media arts and design major, said.
Let’s Go! Local has tried to bring the Harrisonburg and JMU community together through food. The workers enjoy seeing the few students who enter Let’s Go! Local everyday, and usually have a smile on their faces.
“It’s a small place, but [the cashier’s] nice and if you talk to her she’ll have a conversation with you,” Abdelhamid said. “I think people like that.”
For Abdelhamid, Let’s Go! Local was a beloved new discovery last semester. She’d never heard of it, but with the help of her roommate she found one of her favorite dining locations at JMU.
“I asked her, ‘Where is it?’ because I’m always trying to find new food places,” Abdelhamid said. “I went there for the first time and I was very happy to see it.”
Dining Services has promised to provide more local food options throughout JMU’s other dining locations by providing made from scratch and farm-to-fork meals for all future JMU students. The farms that provide food to Let’s Go! Local are spread all across Virginia, including Rainbow Hills Farm in Ferrum, Sunnyside Farms in Cumberland and Crown Orchard in Covesville.
“As part of being a new student here, it would be very unfortunate to have a local food place go away,” Abdelhamid said. “I would hate to see it go away because it is another place [that’s] a part of JMU, and it would be sad to deprive the future students who don’t get a chance to have another food place to eat.”
With the closing of D-Hall this summer and the opening of the new D-Hub in the R1 parking lot, Dining Services will serve carry-out food and have a higher capacity than D-Hall has now. Although a chapter of JMU’s past may be closing, a new one is sure to bring students new memories.
“Let’s Go! Local has always been one of my favorite places to eat,” Dodd said. “One of the things I’ll miss most about it is the woman who works there day in and day out. She never failed to put a smile on my face when I talked to her.”
Contact Maddelynne Parker at firstname.lastname@example.org.