TechMart opens in Walker Memorial
Grocery store provides ‘at-cost’ produce to MIT students
TechMart, an at-cost grocery store for MIT students, opened Monday in Walker Memorial (Building 50). Since the closing of Star Market, a popular, close-to-campus destination for affordable groceries, in February, students have needed an alternative.
TechMart offers a selection of fruits, vegetables, dairy, bread, sauces, frozen food, and spices, among other items. All the produce is “at-cost,” which means no markup is charged on the price at which it is obtained from the wholesaler. Milk at TechMart costs $2.26, an apple costs $0.49, bread costs $1.50, and a carton of eggs costs $1.79.
The shop is located at and operated by Rebecca’s Cafe, on the second floor of Walker. TechMart accepts dining dollars (with the standard five percent discount) as well as TechCash, and operates from 3–11 p.m. on weekdays. It is closed on weekends.
The logistics of setting up TechMart were managed by the Division of Student Life, according to a statement from Mark Hayes, director of campus dining, in an email to The Tech. Staff from DSL and a committee of students from various undergraduate and graduate associations worked on the location and produce selection.
The store has been positively received by students so far.
Ajay Jain ’20, who lives in East Campus and cooks for himself, told The Tech in an interview that he finds the location convenient for East Campus residents. Deeksha Sinha G, while happy with the prices, said that TechMart could improve in terms of selection of items.
TechMart is a pilot project being undertaken to reduce food insecurity at MIT. In September 2017, a survey by the student group Class Awareness, Support, and Equality (CASE) found that 11.6 percent of undergraduates could not afford food at some point during their time at MIT.
In response, the Food Insecurity Solutions Working Group (FISWG) was created by Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart PhD ’88 and Vice President and Dean for Student Life Suzy Nelson. The group published a report in March 2018, with a low-cost grocery market or pantry on campus as one of the key recommendations.
The FISWG also found that since most dining options are on the west side of campus while academic buildings are on the east side, students would rather continue working than travel to the dining halls for meals. TechMart is located in east campus, closer to many academic buildings, and so might be more convenient for students.
The Tech found about half a dozen shoppers at TechMart on its opening day, but only a few or no shoppers on two subsequent visits.
Shoppers in TechMart can give feedback on comment cards, and students can email suggestions about their experience to firstname.lastname@example.org.