Temple, Aramark: Offer affordable food options

On-campus food is expensive, with a lack of cheaper alternatives for those not on the meal plan.

Sophomore business major Justin Singmaker swipes his OwlCard at Twisted Taco at the Student Center on Oct. 2. | CLAUDIA SALVATO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

I came to Temple on a budget. I have to be wary of everything I spent money on, especially food. If I wanted to treat myself to a meal at Chick-fil-A, the only thing I could afford was the number one combo meal: a chicken sandwich, medium beverage, and a side.

The price of that meal in the Student Center today is $6.99, and that same meal costs $5.95, a dollar less, at a Chick-Fil-A on 16th and Chestnut Streets in Center City, according to Chick-Fil-A’s website.

This isn’t the only case of overpriced restaurants on campus. Of all of the retail locations in the Student Center, the price for a traditional meal of an entree, side, and drink can reach up to $9.94 at Which Wich and $14.13 at BurgerFi before tax.

Students deserve access to reasonably priced food on their campus, especially if they’re not on a meal plan.

“I probably would not go back on the meal plan,” said Italia Messina, a junior global studies major. “I feel like it is overpriced and limiting anyway. The meals I make from the grocery store don’t cost me more than $5.”

The rise in food prices is part of a national trend of meal plans increasing at colleges and universities, largely due to universities relying on third-party food distributors for culinary services, the New York Times reported in 2015. Aramark, one of these distributors, began a 15-year contract with Temple in 2016, The Temple News reported.  This means that Aramark — not Temple — controls our meal plans and meal equivalencies, pre-determined rates for meals at retail locations on campus.

Madison Okkerse, a sophomore human resource management major and a peer-to-peer marketing student worker for Aramark, argues Aramark’s business practices make it impractical to offer cheaper alternatives on campus.

“It is not possible at all to open equivalencies to more options on campus because we work with the brands that Aramark contracts with at their corporate office, and we can’t just add and subtract places that accept them as the campus chooses,” Okkerse said.

Considering 35 percent of Temple’s undergraduate student body experiences food insecurity, according to a January 2018 university release, it’s clear that Aramark is not helping this situation by raising meal equivalency prices. Temple also is making the situation worse by offering few inexpensive alternatives.

“The average meal price for a meal swipe is supposed to be $8 or something, but I just paid $13 for a sandwich, a mac and cheese and a drink,” said Sydney Kline, a junior criminal justice major, after eating at Potbelly Sandwich Shop on Montgomery Avenue near 12th Street, a restaurant that is not contracted by Aramark, therefore students cannot use meal swipes there.

“I definitely don’t think that for students working no more than 20 hours a week that it’s feasible to eat like this everyday,” Kline added.

There are other food options for students on and around campus, like the countless food trucks in the area. Many of these businesses have more affordable options than the retail locations that Temple offers. And while those without meal plans — students and community members alike — should take advantage of these vendors, that doesn’t account for the fact that most food trucks don’t take Diamond Dollars, Temple’s on-campus currency, which is often the only form of payment some students have.

We need more options, less expensive meal plans or changes in the price of meal equivalencies. 

We have to pay for laundry, textbooks, rent, and transportation, and the last thing we should be concerned about affording is our own food.

CORRECTION: A previous cutline for the featured image incorrectly stated what Singmaker was doing in the photo. He is swiping his OwlCard at Twisted Taco at the Student Center.

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