How can Pacific students navigate on-campus food options?
For many in the United States, the term “school food” is often synonymous with the word
“awful,” thanks to the often rushed and manufactured quality of the products that cafeterias
nationwide provide. This is regularly seen in K-12 schools where cafeteria workers are paid
Comparatively, university food is better, not only because their cooks are paid better, but also
because universities receive better financial support than K-12 schools. Nevertheless, it still gets
a bad reputation thanks to factors such as how busy college dining areas can get and the skills of
the student workers who cook there. As a former student worker at the University of Oregon, I
can attest to this.
This discussion of cafeteria food is relevant to the Pacific community due to the meal plan
change that went into effect this year. To recap, the changes force first and second-year students,
who are required to live on campus (if they’re under the age of 20 and haven’t lived on campus
for two years), to opt into meal plans. The rate that is being charged also went up this year,
increasing from $3,238 to $3,384. This doesn’t make things too appetizing.
For those who are new and those who aren’t, you may be asking a solid question: How can I
get through this? Well, there is no single answer. Everyone has different needs and wants. When
it comes to food, that boils down to finances and health. Do you have the bandwidth in your
budget to pay for the food that you need? Do you need to consume more of certain vitamins to
keep up during the day? Can you even eat the food that Bon Appétit provides without getting
hives or needing an EpiPen? My peers and I have found ourselves asking these questions too
many times to count.
These are all important considerations, but not ones that I will cover substantially in this
article. Instead, I would like to focus exclusively on Bon Appétit and give you tips on how you
can navigate the UC’s food offerings and leave satisfied.
When I was eating at the UC, I would always come out with a big plate of food (sometimes
two). This would undoubtedly leave me with food leftover, which I felt bad about because that
food could’ve been eaten by someone else who needed it more and contributes to food waste,
which has a whole heap of problems for society. If you’re in the same situation, my
recommendation is to get what you know you can eat, and if you can eat a bit more, go back for
seconds. Don’t be shy! You are able to do this. Of course, to know what you can eat requires
experimentation. If you’re new to the UC, it’s important to know what options are available and
how “filling” certain meal combinations are. Eventually, you’ll find an optimal strategy for
yourself that is both reliable and healthy.
My second tip is to always make sure that there isn’t anything wrong with the food itself. It
won’t take long to find out that the food here isn’t being made by masters or, at least, to a
master’s quality. Sometimes that comes at the cost of food poisoning. Sometimes chicken doesn’t
get cooked properly, and sometimes fries get moldy (yes, this has happened to me). Don’t get
caught automatically assuming that everything here is healthy to eat! Humans make mistakes,
and the kitchen is staffed with humans.
My third tip is leftovers. Food such as fruit and pastries can be neatly folded up into a napkin
and taken to your dorm for later. Another option is to get the portable food box they provide at
the front to take with you during classes or elsewhere. For a $8, one-time purchase (use your
Boxer Bucks), they’re pretty cheap and a great way to eat when you’re hungry but too busy to eat
at the UC. Just make sure you return it when you’re done, and put it in the right spot instead of at
the dish return rack!
Finally, I have tips for those who don’t need a meal plan. Don’t get one. It’s not worth it.
You’ll be paying a whole lot more than if you just bought the meals individually.
What you can do instead, however, is use your friends’ guest meals! At a time when about half
the school is required to be on a meal plan, this is a cost-effective way to make sure that both you
and the person you are asking for the guest meals take advantage of what the meal plans provide
to their fullest potential. Plus, it allows you to talk to your friends more and even make new ones.
Pacific’s meal plans are tough to overcome, but with these few tips, I hope I’ve made it a bit
easier to comprehend. In future articles, I’ll attempt to go more in-depth on why meal plans can
be challenging for certain people and why the school may not be doing anything about it (hint:
it’s probably about money). — Aaron Meeuwsen