With the dining halls undergoing renovations, students are eating a lot more sandwiches than ever before.

Located in Ortega Dining Commons, the take-out meals program provides hand-packed lunches for students with meal plans who cannot fit their meals within the dining halls’ scheduled hours. With only two out of three dining halls in operation and, this year, assigning students to dining halls, the number of take-out meals has jumped 83 percent from last year.

The newly re-opened Carrillo Dining Commons, located on the Isla Vista side of campus, serves students from Manzanita Village and San Rafael residence halls – and the 400 students of the Santa Rosa Residence Hall on the other side of campus. With this year’s closing of De La Guerra Dining Commons, located amid the five dorms on the eastern side of campus, Residential Dining Services was concerned that the centrally located Ortega would be overwhelmed.

To even out the dining halls’ respective patrons they assigned students from each residence hall to eat in a particular dining hall for lunches and dinner, Monday through Thursday. Students are free to go where they please for breakfast and on weekends, during which the dining halls see much less use.

For some students, weekend convenience is not enough. Second-year College of Creative Studies physics major Mika McKinnon, who lives in San Rafael, said she gets take-out lunches every weekday except Fridays.

“I’m not walking back across campus for San Raf when I have half an hour for lunch,” she said. “No one’s going to walk back across campus. … Everyone just ends up in the sack lunch room.”

Students consume 600 to 800 take-out meals each day. Three full-time employees with the help of two or three part-time student employees prepare the meals.

Rachelle Stephens, one of the three full-timers at the take-out counter, said the busiest time of day is “all day.”

” On rainy days we get even more people and on sunny days we get more people because they want to go to the beach. So we never really get a break,” she said.

The take-out meal service runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays offering breakfast, lunch and dinner. Earlier this quarter, Residential Dining Services planned to cut out the 7:30 to 10 a.m. hours as part of general service cutbacks they try to do in Spring Quarters, when less people eat in the dining halls. However, after meeting an unexpected amount of student protest, they decided against the idea.

“We just decided that this is too important a service,” said Ortega General Manager Mike Conaway, who oversees the take-out meals program. “[We’d be] saving a few cents to earn a lot of ill will.”

The take-out meals program underwent many changes long before renovations began. In the late ’80s, all three dining halls offered the service, with the format varying from do-it-yourself buffet style to the current mode, in which the workers make students’ lunches based on a form full of options the students check off. By the 2000-2001 school year, the service was only offered at Ortega. However, when what was the De La Guerra Annex closed due to low student turnout, Residential Dining Services jumped at the chance to use the space for the take-out meals program. During its tenure there – the first year two out of the three dining halls were running – usage grew.

Conaway said the growing popularity was due to the experienced crew of workers and the better service style they developed there, which included the workers actually assembling the sandwiches for students rather than packing all the ingredients – a technique they’ve kept.

Residential Dining Services has some ideas to improve the program further, including posting dining hall menus online, which Conaway said he expects to happen by fall 2003. Someday, he said, the program hopes to be able to offer students the ability to order take-out meals online.