Food and Fairness
Although it’s common to place acknowledgements at the tail of a paper, in case you don’t read this to the end, I’d like you to at least know who I’m in debt to. This report is made possible by the contribution of facts and perspectives by Mr. Mark Daniels, General Manager of Dining Services, and the guidance of Dr. Pittman, Director of the Honors Program. However, please keep in mind that the opinions presented here do not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of the contributors.
Is it fair?
During my freshman and sophomore years, I heard a plethora of complaints concerning the dining services here at Andrews University. Their nature ranged from the hours of operation to the prices of food. At the time, the only anecdote that supported the idea of these interfering with student’s access to food. The common ideas were that 1) students were widely experiencing a depletion of cafeteria funds and were thus unable to always eat because of their need to budget and 2) class scheduling and Cafeteria opening hours overlapped throughout the day resulting in the inability to spend time eating upstairs. I wondered if there was any substance to these ideas and what could possibly interfere with a student’s ability to eat. Admittedly, for some time, I held the opinion that Dining Services took advantage of students through increased pricing. I never solidified this opinion into conclusion because I lacked evidence. All I had was a trend of seemingly ridiculous prices in the Gazebo. Eventually, after dozens of conversations with faculty and students, I decided to approach Dining Services concerning the Terrace Cafe’s prices with a series of questions that would give a clearer picture as to whether the prices (especially the dollar increase on take out—which many people I knew would say was ridiculous because the dollar exchanges unlimited food for a limited size serving) were fair at all. During my interviews with people, especially those near the end of my investigation, I attempted to maintain a position of minimal bias. I will continue in this spirit by presenting certain pieces of information and stating how it is relevant to making a judgment on the fairness of the situation without directly expressing my own judgments.
If a major percentage of students were experiencing a premature depletion of funds, it would be understandable to question whether the costs in the Café were appropriate (or the starting amount in the café account appropriate). In order to address the idea of a wide depletion of funds, I requested general information on Student Account depletion. Please make note of the percentages.
As depicted in Figure 1, the 100% Stacked Column graph, starting on the fourth week of October, increments of three students per week would deplete their funds until around the first week of December. Then, fifteen to seventeen students, per semester, would choose to replenish their meal plans as needed. Finally, six-hundred students scramble to spend the remainder of their funds before classes end, thus leaving about two hundred students with substantial amounts of funds. Keep in mind that this is out of eight hundred twenty-five students.
Aside from the data, let’s assume that a major number of students were under pressure of funds depletion. Our attention would then turn to the pricing of food. Various students have expressed a skepticism to the dollar increase for Take-Out. If each dollar closer to depletion of importance, this would be one of the next aspects of the meal system to scrutinize. Does the ability to dine out really warrant an additional charge of a dollar? Figure 2, the pie chart, illustrates how the dollar is applied. Turning attention to the seven cents remainder, this could be interpreted as a small buffer for the abuse of the Take-Out system.
Through some devious means (I’m sure your minds won’t have too hard of a time imagining), students are able to acquire more than a reasonable amount of food. Even so, is this really wrong? After all, isn’t there a massive over production of food resulting in major wastage? In that case, wouldn’t it be acceptable to take the extra food off their hands? Figure 3, the column graph indicates the actual food wastages by the café per week and by the guests per week in pounds to give an idea of who is being alarmingly wasteful.
I realize that I may have brushed issues which seem irrelevant to you or entirely missed issues that are significant to you. Nevertheless, even if the information I provided is meaningless, I believe that it’s still important to have the common realization that the Terrace Café has come a long way since the Bon Appetit Management Company arrived to Andrews University in the summer of 2010. Prior to these better days, the Terrace Café would charge by weight of food. A meal would cost above twelve dollars on average, an approximate figure provided by Mr. Daniels. Worse yet, the nutritional quality and variety of the food was reported to be far below the standards that Bon Appetit set for the modern Terrace Café.
During a conversation with Mr. Daniels, the General Manager of our Dining Services, the subject arrived at addressing the idea of fairness, specifically considering the prices. We established that fairness of pricing would be established relative to the food sources in the area. Take a moment to think about how much you pay when eating elsewhere. When approaching an all you can eat buffet, especially the Terrace Cafe, one must take into consideration that we are purchasing more than unlimited food. As Mr. Daniels pointed out, the funds we hand over cover for the great variety of foods available to us. In fact, the Café is taking a risk by presenting such an option. Certain foods cost more to prepare. Through our selections on the buffet line, the value of our plate could range anywhere from beneath the price we paid to far over it. On top of this, there are those who find ways to take even more food from the café—more than anyone would be able to eat in a single sitting. Taking this into account, if the prices were unfair, who would they be unfair to?
With the greater variety of foods at our disposal comes time necessary to prepare them. With three distinct meals, the Terrace Café requires time to take down and refresh the food on the lines. While in my freshman year, my friends and I often experienced time conflicts that did not permit us to dine in for either lunch or dinner. At times, we couldn’t even hop over to the Gazebo or grab take out. The initial concern I had when asking these questions is how could student’s access to food be most jeopardized. I hope this information helped you formulate your opinion concerning the impact of prices and funds on this issue. However, I’m finding that schedule conflicts, like those my friends and I experienced, are more threatening than anything else I can think of. This may the
As one of my interviewees, Mr. Daniels, stated, “I wonder if a hard look at the way classes are scheduled would go a long way toward solving the fundamental problem that necessitates the to go option. If we purportedly to want to make AU the healthiest university, we should make time for our students to sit down and dine together.”