We’ve all heard the complaints about cafeteria and deli food. “There’s nothing to eat!” “Why is this food always mushy?” “I never get enough food for what I pay.” Are these complaints valid, or are students just being picky? As a staff, we have determined there are three components to why the food is the way it is at North Central: quality, quantity and price.
Although the food at North Central cannot compete with restaurant food, a variety of options are offered to students: a taco bar, salad bar, deli bar, pasta bar, pizza and grille line in addition to the main food entrées. To a visitor, the cafeteria is food paradise. Yet the paradise look fades when one finds the quality of the food is not as impressive as it may seem. Not every dish can be prepared like grandma’s cooking when a dozen dishes have to service hundreds.
Why is there variety at all? It’s simple. While some students have health-related food restrictions, most of us are just picky eaters. It’s hard to please a crowd when everyone’s cravings are so different. With the mass quantities of food, the quality of each dish is reduced. Money has to be distributed to many types of food rather than, say, three entrées per night. This accounts for the reasons the food is not as healthy or tasteful as one would hope.
Maybe the food service employees need to learn how to maintain the food better. Someone suggested that hot water could be added to the refried beans and stirred in to reduce the crustiness of the beans.
Despite the stereotypical poor view of the food by North Central students, an admissions representative at North Central commented that many prospective high school students have positive feedback about the food. Why don’t we respond the same way? The food choices are too familiar as daily consumers, and in this comfort zone our complaints increase because we are hungry for change.
This is one of the best parts about the cafeteria. Since it operates buffet-style, students are able to eat as much food as they desire while sitting in the dining area. Your belly will be full from meal to meal if you take advantage of it. Most do.
This also leads to the issue of students taking food out of the cafeteria. Although it’s against the rules, most of us know students who take fruit and cookies out of the cafeteria with no moral dilemma. Yet when was the last time you went to Old Country Buffet and walked out with food for later? If the cafeteria follows the function of a typical buffet, there are no take-outs. Even if the cost of fruit and cookies is cheap, it adds up if students continue to take food out multiple times. Fruit and cookie theft needs to stop.
On the other hand, the deli offers much less food per meal. Many students argue that a sandwich, drink and two small side snacks are not enough for the price they are paying. Additionally, the cafeteria’s options on the weekend are extremely limited. This is a frustration point for many students because the deli doesn’t utilize the meal plan on the weekend.
The quantity of food needs to change in the deli, because students are not getting enough for what they pay. The cafeteria offers a satisfying amount of food, but if a student is not hungry enough or chooses not to eat a whole plate of food (or more), they then are wasting their money.
The price needs to match the quality and the quantity of the food. Right now, meals cost approximately $8 each. This cost funds the price of the food as well as the salaries of the full-time food service staff. Is it too much?
Well, yes and no. If a student eats a full plate of food in the cafeteria, then they are getting a substantial amount of food for the price. This is the same price (or less) one would pay at an Applebee’s or Perkins, and it’s right on campus. Plus – you don’t have to do the dishes! Apartment students know what I’m talking about.
We agree that the food price of a meal in the deli is too high, because students do not get enough. When did an average meal at McDonald’s or Taco Bell cost $8?
We have concluded that students should have the option of having a meal plan. It benefits some students, but not others. Meal plans offer “instant” food, with no dishes to clean up after. Without a meal plan you have to spend time cooking food and washing your own dishes, but it also costs much less and you get to eat whatever your stomach (or wallet) desires. Take your pick.
No matter what happens, we need to learn to be thankful for the food we get. Pioneer College Catering does a fantastic job providing a variety of hot dishes three times a day during the week. Although it may not be the quality, quantity or price we hope for, it is a privilege to have food served to us. If we cannot appreciate the food for what it is, we have succumbed to the sickness of #firstworldprobs.