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A look at the food on campus

Food services on campus an unourishing joke

Jesse Colautti | Fulcrum Staff

When I first came to this university two years ago, I eagerly signed up for a meal plan right away. The first couple of weeks were great, and the options seemed endless—there were burgers, pizzas, subs, and even a different type of pasta/stir-fry meal for every day of the week! Because I was on a meal plan, I wasn’t going to have to pay tax on anything, and I was laughing at the memory of being subjected to my mother’s cooking for so long.

Well, three months later it was a completely different story. Because of my sallow skin, weight loss, and occasional outbreak of delusion, experts told me I was suffering from scurvy—and I couldn’t afford any medical care because by November I had been forced to deposit more money into my meal plan.

Joke aside, after opting out of my meal plan the following semester, I began the slow process of recovery. Although the wounds will never fully heal—the thought of stir fry still brings tears to my eyes, and just walking by Jazzy’s makes me break out in uncontrollable shaking—I am proud to say I am now healthy and cooking my own meals.

Quite simply put: the food options on our campus are embarrassing.

Now I’ll give the university credit: the food on campus has improved since two years ago; there are now some solid sandwich options at Lamoureux’s café, and the new French bakery in the FSS building offers some tasty bites, but both these options, along with every other food offered on campus, remain unaffordable. There’s no way a panini should cost 10 dollars or a smaller-than-average slice of pizza more than five.

The university’s food options prey on the constant and desperate demand from a large student population. Chartwells, the company contracted to provide us with eats, knows that no matter how much they jack up the price, there will always be willing customers. Instead of our school providing us with healthy and fairly priced food options, they leave us with options so bad they are practically incentives to be on campus as little as possible.

Another problem is the congestion. I’m no business major, but I’d say that given a student population of over 40,000 and the knowledge that Canadians enjoy their coffee, two Tim Hortons stands probably aren’t going to be enough. It’s also impossible to grab a quick meal between classes because the lineups everywhere rival only those for the U-Pass.

Our university needs to make drastic changes to the food options on campus and needs to do it soon. We are consistently rated among the lowest of all Canadian universities in food services, and until the people in charge of our university begin to prioritize the health and finances of their students, we will never be considered a top undergraduate destination.

Until then, students, do yourself a favour and learn how to cook.


A love letter to food services

Ali Schwabe | Fulcrum Staff

On my first day of school I bought a meal plan and subsequently spent a year bemoaning the lack of variety, the expense of healthy choices, and my weight gain. Three years later as I’m about to graduate, I’m still bemoaning, but this time over the fact that it took Food Services three years to come up with respectable and delicious options for chow on campus. The variety, the increase in healthy options, and the efforts made toward sustainability all make me a little sad that I won’t be around next year to buy a meal plan.

Let’s talk about choices. Food Services actually gives them to you. You always have the option of burgers and fries, Shawarma, subs, pizza, and sushi—and there are plenty of meta options within those: California rolls or spicy salmon? Hawaiian or pepperoni pizza? Salad with chicken or tuna? Even better, the menus at the Spice, Menutainment, and Global Village stations are constantly rotating. The Spice station follows a different theme or type of cuisine every week. There your options can range from butternut squash curry to chicken pad Thai, from spiced eggplant and chickpeas to veggie chicken pot pie, from spicy sesame chicken to Matar Paneer. Every day of the week you can get a different main and two sides for $8.99—that’s legit. Nothing there catch your eye? The Menutainment station lets you customize your meal, and rotates between pasta, stir fry, poutine, Asian dumplings, grilled cheese, noodle bowls, and more. Plus, on the weekends you can get crepes or all-day breakfasts. Finally, Global Village offers foreign fare like tortillas, wurst, fish and chips, and wraps. I could go on and on!

Eating at the caf can definitely cause some tightness around the waist. It’s the same as doing your own groceries, though. If you eat pizza from the cafeteria all the time, you’re going to be unhealthy, for sure. But you’ll be just as unhealthy if you live on frozen pizzas you get at the grocery store. The smoothie bar at the U of O lets you watch as they blend tasty mixes of real fruit and yogurt, with no added sugar. The salad bar, vegetarian options, and fruit stands are a great way to ensure you get your daily recommended servings of veggies and fruits.

The improvement I’m most impressed with is the steps toward sustainability that have been taken by Food Services and other groups on campus to make eating a more environmentally friendly process. A compost project ensures that less food waste ends up in the dump. Napkins are made of recycled paper. Styrofoam takeout containers have been eliminated, and instead you can eat in with plates and cutlery that are washed in a newly installed commercial dishwasher that reduces water usage. You can get a discount when you bring a reusable mug to any food service location, and plenty of options on campus include locally sourced ingredients, from veggies to pasta.

Sure, there’s room for improvement, and there probably always will be. Prices on campus are high—like with anything else in the world, we pay for convenience. When I finish my butter chicken platter, I’m satisfied by a delicious, decently healthy meal and by the fact that my dolla-dolla billz are going toward an environmental movement I support.