A Freshman’s Perspective on College Dining

This past spring I wrapped up my freshman year of college. The editor of FE&S, who happens to be my uncle, asked me to share my thoughts and experiences about the foodservice program.

Parting-ShotWhen I first arrived on campus, my expectations for the university’s foodservice operations were relatively simple. I hoped foodservice would support me in my academic lifestyle and make me feel at home. The residence hall I lived in had a dining hall in the building. And there were several other dining halls on campus from which to choose. I couldn’t go more than a block or two without running into a dining hall — very convenient for an on-the-go college student.

Most of the dining halls on campus operated around traditional meal periods — breakfast, lunch and dinner. And yet for myself and many of my peers, we didn’t eat during the traditionally allotted meal times. We would often space out our meals instead of stopping our days to eat at set times. We adjusted to timing issues by taking more food back to our rooms to eat later in the day.

When eating breakfast, portability is critical. College students are programmed to stay up later and yet we have early classes. So breakfast was the meal I would skip the most often. If you gave me the choice of sleeping a little longer and eating an apple for breakfast or getting up earlier to dine on a plate of eggs, I will take the former to make it to class on time.

Dinner turned into more of a social experience. At first, many of us started going to dinner with our roommates. As the year progressed I found a group of friends that I would typically eat with. We would send group messages deciding which dining hall we should visit for dinner. The majority usually ruled. We would often eat together and then head off to the library to study. In contrast, lunch was less of a social event. I usually ate quickly by myself and went back to class.

A major obstacle I encountered with foodservice was the set meal periods. Most nights I would study until 11 p.m. or later and would look for a healthy snack around 9 p.m. to provide that boost of energy to get through the last few hours. Unfortunately, most dining halls around campus closed between 6:30 and 7 p.m. As a result, I had to plan ahead for these instances by bringing food back to my room.

During finals week, my university served late-night breakfast. My friends and I could take a study break around 9 p.m., grab a bite to eat and congregate. It would be great if that would happen more consistently.

Overall, my first experience with college foodservice was a good one. However, I do have two suggestions to improve things. First, increase the number of healthy options available. And second, longer hours of operation that allow us to study as groups, particularly during those times when the library was packed, would be helpful. Implementing these changes, I believe, would benefit foodservice as a whole.

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