While walking around campus, I often hear students complain about the lousy quality and service of our dining provider. I count myself amongst this number. On the other hand, in my personal opinion the cafeteria has improved greatly in the two years that I have been here, which is noteworthy and appreciated. But, the dining provider still needs far more improvement.I will focus my complaints on Lawrence’s dining services. The cafeteria provides few meal options(most notably on the weekends), especially for those who have restrictive diets(vegetarian, vegan, lactose intolerant, etc.). While some improvements have been made in this area, it remains frustrating and time-consuming to find a healthy meal that fits these requirements. For example, Lindsay’s Garden has emerged this year, a station where vegetarians and vegans can obtain a fresh-made meal, which is great. This is an upgrade in quality of vegetarian food, however, this option is much more inconvenient for those seeking to obtain a healthy meal on the go. The vegetarian station of last year used to provide this option, which has disappeared in place of a vast array of salad dressings.
Additionally, the refrigerator that holds the lactose-free and soy milk cartons is now located in Traditions, a side cafeteria that closes on the weekends. This is problematic for those desiring these alternatives. Seeing as how this fridge used to be located in the main cafeteria, I see no reason as to why it was moved. Perhaps the new machines providing more unhealthy varieties of soda took its place?
Lastly, Lawrence provides little variety of fresh vegetables. Usually, there is one vegetable option for each meal, often smothered in oil or seasoning. How about some fresh vegetables, steamed, uncooked, or unseasoned, which are essential to a healthy diet?
At the end of the day, Aramark is a business. While this is not breaking news to any of us, it is essential when considering the lack of service and options the cafeteria provides. Because the dining service has a greater incentive to maximize profitability than to serve the needs and wants of the student populace, Aramark has little reason to innovate their services if it is not threatening to their profits. So how to make it clear that we expect improvements?
I suggest utilizing every method of voicing concerns available in addition to taking advantage of every initiative Aramark makes that shows an effort to improve the quality of the dining service. For those of us who are forced to buy the meal plan, this would show that the student body will not accept sub-par service without making their dissatisfaction known. If we are forced to buy the meal plan, then the dining provider should take heed in our expectations because we have no other option, and we deserve to complain, make demands, and see feedback in exchange for our forced purchase.
One of the recent changes that Aramark has made in response to student concerns is the new option of cage-free eggs in the cafeteria. Cage-free eggs are produced by hens that do not live in stacked battery cages, which is the conventional method used on most farms. These battery cages offer little opportunity for hens to move about or engage in natural behaviors because of the small space that the hens are confined to.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, hens living in battery cages on average exist within a space of 67 square inches(less than the size of a sheet of paper). Hens have no ability to stretch their wings, take dust baths, or nest properly, which are all natural behaviors that hens living outside of cages exhibit. This lack of mobility sometimes leads hens to attack one another in frustration.
More studies are in the process of investigating how this close confinement affects the health of hens and the spread of disease. Because of these concerns, the state of California has proposed to ban battery cages by 2015, and recently, the state of Michigan has passed a bill that will ban them within 10 years.
In response to students voicing their concerns over this issue, our cafeteria provider has just introduced them as an option when ordering in the cafeterias for this year and it will be written into the contract for the dining provider next year as a complete switch to all cage-free eggs. This is a huge success, and has proved that only when we take direct action will our demands come to fruition.
If this is an issue that is important to you, request cage-free eggs when ordering at the omelet station or other places where eggs are individually prepared. This is only one example of a way that the student body can take advantage of an initiative to see results, and the time is now.
Julliette Honsinger is a student at West Chester University. She can be reached at JH648769@wcupa.edu.