Some Food for Thought

Photo by David Khorassani.

Here’s some food for thought: dining options and meal plans on campus have been changed this semester in order to meet more student demands. But as newer options have been added across campus, others have been stripped away.

According to Campus Auxiliary Services (CAS) Director Steve Deutsch, there will be the addition of Peet’s Coffee & Tea — a California based coffee and tea chain — to the Sojourner Truth Library once renovation is completed in the fall of 2015. Jazzman’s Café in the Jacobson Faculty Tower has been replaced with a Starbucks and Parker Café will be renovated into one as well. With the recently built Ridgeview Hall also comes a high-quality sandwich café: The Roost. Deutsch also said that once Wooster Science Building’s renovation is completed, it will be home to another large dining facility, Element 93, which is scheduled to open in the spring of 2016.

While new dining services are being implemented, other dining options such as those in the Student Union Building (SUB) have been limited. Food options such as  Pomodoro’s Pizza, Starbucks, Nester’s, Nester’s Grill, Sub Connection, Café Spice and Salad Toss may be open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (with the exception of Salad Toss and Tokyo Sushi closing at 5 p.m., Starbucks opening at 7:30 a.m. and closing at 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and closing at 5 p.m. on Fridays), but on weekends, however, none of these options except Pomodoro’s and Nester’s are open, restricting students’ dining choices.

Cassandra D’Accordo, a third year digital media programming and management major who uses the Ultimate Flex plan, likes the versatility this meal plan offers her, but also voiced concerns about the limited hours of operation of dining services around campus.

“The SUB being closed on weekends is not the best if all you have is money towards the SUB. You end up having to pay for Hasbrouck anyway, which is unfair to students who changed their meal plan so that they wouldn’t have to eat there,” she said.

Students like D’Accordo have also noted that Oscar’s has changed its hours of operation in order to appeal to the needs of students, being open 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. on weekdays and 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. on weekends. Though Oscar’s has made more flexible hours, their dining options are limited for those trying to eat healthy.

“Oscar’s may be open more during the day, but they took everything out except for unhealthy food,” D’Accordo said. “They used to have cereals, soups, wraps, salads. As a college campus, we should be promoting healthier options.”

Victoria O’Connor, a third year digital media production major, felt the same as D’Accordo. Though she is happy with the addition of permanent noodle bowls to Oscar’s, as well as the additions of sushi and Wholly Habanero Mexican food, the lack of healthier options has begun to pose an issue.

“There’s no place to food shop on campus anymore and it’s definitely a problem to not have salad at Oscar’s, especially since Salad Toss closes so early during the week,” O’Connor said. “If you want a healthy option at Oscar’s, you are very limited.”

The status of each of the four campus meal plans has also been changed this semester. Students now have the option of choosing the Carte Blanche meal plan (unlimited student ID swipes at Hasbrouck and $200 in dining dollars, which has been raised from the previous $50), 12 swipes at Hasbrouck and $500 in dining dollars, 7 swipes at Hasbrouck and $900 dining dollars, as well as the new Unlimited Flex plan, which includes all $1,930 in dining dollars.

Deutsch said that the CAS board witnessed a trend of students wanting more options and flexibility in meal plan spending, which influenced the creation of the Ultimate Flex plan.

Deutsch said that with the revamping of dining options and meal plans, Sodexo, the SUNY New Paltz campus food provider, had to make the decision to go with the foods that would actually sell, and often times, healthier options do not.

“The needs of the students must be met,” he said. “Even if Sodexo hasn’t gotten it right, they tried hard. [Sodexo and CAS] make a lot of adjustments based on data and student feedback, but we can continue to make adjustments.”

Deutsch also said that CAS wants students to receive the value of their meal plans by using every penny of their dining dollars. The ending balance of each students’ dining dollars at the end of the academic year gets collected toward scholarship funds.