By Alissa Sheppard
In a buffet line people pile food up on their plates. They get as many drinks as they want, and they load up on desserts with no hesitation. But if a buffet limits a person to one entrée at a time and smaller cup sizes, that would limit people on how much they get.
At Southwestern there are three different options for meal plans in the cafeteria. The largest one is the 17 meal plan, which a student pays $1,706 and gets 272 meals per semester. The next is the 14 meal plan, where a student pays $1,615 and gets 224 meals per semester. The smallest meal plan is the 10 meal plan, where a student pays $1,495 and gets 160 meals per semester.
Despite that, many students have been questioning if they are getting what they pay for.
Some students would say the answer is “no.” Coley Streater, psychology junior, sits at the table with a group of his friends as they talk about their experiences in the cafeteria. They are tired of coming into the café and seeing the same food over and over again, and not being able to get what they want when they want. Streater said he hates the fact that he pays so much for his meal plan and is not pleased, but he has no other options. “We are paying for this, we should be able to eat what we want and how much we want,” said Streater. After football practice he is always hungry, and he does not think that it is fair to go through the line and be served a small portion and have to wait in line just to get some more. “The serving sizes are ridiculous,” Streater said. He compares the cups to a sippy cup. He says that he likes the fact that the school cares enough to offer healthy options, but he says he would rather pay for something that he will actually eat. He is not the only student who complains.
David Barksdale, business freshman, is a long way from home and has no car of his own, so for him to get a meal that reminds him of home does not come easy. He says the food is “ok” but he would like the quality to be improved. “I have the 17 meal plan because this is my only real option to eat.” What follows are his suggestion, he would want to have larger portions of food and a wider variety.
In an interview the morning of Feb. 16 with Harold Harris, director of food services, stated that not many changes have been implemented. He went to a district meeting for Sodexo, who is the provider of the food for the cafeteria, where they discussed waste management. The more food students get, the more waste there is. Sodexo’s plan is to eliminate as much waste as possible by implementing new ideas such as not having bowls for soup, just using the smaller cups, and not having big bowls for ice cream. “If kids would not waste so much we wouldn’t have to switch things up. We do not want to have to raise the rates. Nobody wants that, so we just want to cut back on waste in order to not lose out on money,” said Harris. The bowl situation is still something that is being debated on Harold says.
In other cafeterias that are ran by Sodexo they have made a new rule where students have to eat their first entrée before they can get in line for another one. “We do not want to do that here. As long as you are in the café you can go back for second helpings as many times as you like, we just want to eliminate the waste,” said Harris. When asked about criticism, he said it will always be there. “People will always have something to say.” But he said his job is to take it into consideration and try to help change it. “There is a suggestion box for students to make complaints or suggestions, and we will do what we can to get it taken care of,” said Harris.
People have different perspectives about the changes. An individual who requested anonymity stated that the sizes of servings were going to change and that they will no longer serve soup in a bowl. If a student brings one up from the cereal or rice bar, that they have to turn the student down. It was also stated that the reduction in the quantity of the food was being blamed on the students because of how much waste has been produced. This individual said that the food is not always being thrown away, that it is re-used sometimes. This individual also said the students are paying too much for what they are getting.
A second individual wants students to know that they are open to filing complaints, and highly encourages it. “Yes there is a lot of waste, but what food service doesn’t have any?? said the individual. It is not fair to get smaller serving dishes for people who pay so much to eat. Speaking out is what the second individual wants students to do because nothing will ever get fixed if the problem is not brought to the table.
Every semester, a food service survey is given out to students via email. It is a seven minute question and answer series about students’ experience in the cafeteria. Students are able to voice their opinions via the questionnaire.
Alissa Sheppard is a senior majoring in communication. You may email her at email@example.com.