Recently, I allowed myself to relive all the stress of being a high school senior in the college application process. I visited ecampustours.com, which contains hundreds of pictures of college campuses nationwide. But the picture of the Student Center’s food court on the site is mystifying. There are no lines for anything. The floor is so clean it sparkles. It is a portrayal of the campus dining experience that is far from reality.
The Student Center’s food court is officially the Valaida S. Walker Dining Court. Its stations use misnomers such as “Sizzling Salads,” “Charleston Market” and “Good To Go” to mislead the public into believing the food actually is of restaurant-like quality.
While the Student Center has revitalized itself this year with the long overdue options of brick oven sandwiches and the “new and improved” pasta station, the change overlooks the thing that characterizes college life – being broke.
The price of each meal, $4.60 for breakfast and $5.75 for lunch and dinner, can buy a lot – if you’re not buying from the food court. Most meals cost almost as much as the meal plan. If lucky, you may be able to squeeze in a small beverage.
While walking around the food court, I overheard complaints that a brick oven sandwich and a 20-ounce beverage will total to $5.80, five cents over the meal plan limit. Coincidentally, I found a nickel on the ground as I was leaving the building.
Street vendors continually tantalize students by offering competitive rates. A slice of cheese pizza is $1.70 at the food court. A slice of cheese pizza and a 12-ounce can of soda is $2 at Fame’s Pizza on 11th and Berks. Vendors sell sandwiches for as little as $2. Many vendors also accept Diamond Dollars. If they were able to take meal plans as well, the food court and the Johnson & Hardwick cafeteria would lose a considerable amount of business.
The Louis J. Esposito Dining Court cafeteria, nicknamed “the caf,” is the only place on campus to get the most for your money. But its buffet-style servings allow students to easily gain the notorious “freshman 15.” Allowing students to take food out of the caf, without devising plans to sneak it out, would be beneficial to those who choose not to sit in uncomfortable chairs next to screaming students.
The caf does have the advantage over the Student Center’s food court in terms of hours. It’s open until midnight six days a week, while the food court closes at 8 p.m. during the week and 7:30 p.m. on the weekends. The food court should stay open until 9 p.m. or 9:30 p.m. to accommodate students living on campus who eat at all hours of the day and night.
Main campus has seen an increase in the number of food options over the past three years with the additions of 7-Eleven, Dunkin’ Donuts, Togo’s, Baskin Robbins, Cinnabon, Taco Bell and Wendy’s. While these dining locations meet the needs of busy college students who don’t always have time to sit down and eat a meal, they also neglect those who prefer not to have saturated fat with a side of cholesterol as a meal.
The only healthy options on campus are “The Deli” in the food court, Tuttleman’s Fresh Bytes café and Togo’s. Unfortunately, only the food court takes meal plans. Spending $5 on a sandwich on a regular basis is too much of a burden for those with limited Diamond Dollars.
The next time you have an extra $5, go to the grocery store and buy a loaf of bread and a pack of lunchmeat. The two items combined will be less than $5, and will last a lot longer than one overpriced meal from the Student Center.
Stephanie Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.