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Editorial

Nobody wins come lunchtime: food services are lacking

Frustration with food services on campus is not news. The years of competition between AfterMath and the cafeteria have been written about in The Cascade time and again, as have been the politics surrounding each — for example, the latter’s strict contract with UFV and the former’s struggles to break even.

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By Katie Stobbart (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: September 24, 2014

Frustration with food services on campus is not news. The years of competition between AfterMath and the cafeteria have been written about in The Cascade time and again, as have been the politics surrounding each — for example, the latter’s strict contract with UFV and the former’s struggles to break even.

Since UFV is a commuter campus, it’s not unusual to hear of students staying on campus between classes. Furthermore, leftovers are perishable and few want to — or should! — eat a ham sandwich that has been sitting in a bag for more than a couple hours. So food services on campus really need to be that: services.

Though students have been complaining absout food both in and out of these pages for time immemorial (old complainants have long graduated to make way for the new), the pickings on campus are still slim.

Sure, both the cafeteria and the campus lounge have their merits when it comes to meal-time decision-making, and each tries its best to win student loyalty. The cafeteria’s grab-and-go breakfast options (muffins, specialty scones, bars) are convenient and tasty. AfterMath has a shiny new menu with only one typo this time, can nuke a good bowl of mac ‘n’ cheese, and has been pretty good, in my experience, about putting an apology basket of fries on the table when the situation warrants it.

But each also suffers marked disadvantages when it comes to price, time, and quality of service.

In the cafeteria, a small clamshell of veggies is about $5. A salad from the case is over $7. I know, Sodexo: you’ve got people to pay and ingredients to buy, just like everyone else. But I find it hard to believe pizza, for instance, needs to be $3.49 a slice. I overheard a cafeteria employee last week saying the reason for the price was based on the cost of ingredients. Really? Then how are so many businesses able to stay afloat selling pizza for less than $2 a slice?

AfterMath’s prices can be a little better, unless you want nachos ($13, as there’s no half-plate anymore). But with new options this year, some of the better menu items from last year (paninis, flatbread pizzas) are no longer offered. The new pizza that sits for hours slowly becoming less edible in the warmer is not worth the per-slice price of $2.69.

But ultimately, time is what makes each an ineffective lunch stop for students trying to squeeze their meal in between classes. Between the wait to order food, the wait for food to appear, and the wait to pay for that food, it can take between 30 minutes and an hour to grab lunch from either location.

Their hours are also limited, each closing early in the evening Monday to Thursday, and even earlier Friday afternoons. Classes are still going on; students are still here. In light of that alone, does either really fit the definition of “service?”

If students don’t have the time and cash to spend, other options are limited. You can join the Tim’s line for a bagel; trek down to the bookstore where the Press Café waits, empty, for someone to figure out they have to ask at the other cash register; or you can pop over the Finnegan’s. That is, unless a bag of chips and a coffee from the Roadrunner is your ideal lunch.

Maybe it’s easier to find food on campus now than it was years ago. But I’m sure I’m not the only one who still dreams of a quick, affordable, quality meal on campus.

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