Letter: ISU dining should offer variety, not monopoly


Photo: John Andrus/Iowa State Daily

Students fill the salad bar at Seasons Dining Center in Maple-Willow-Larch residence halls.

“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another.” These revolutionary words undoubtedly changed the course of history, and to this day still incite rebellions, albeit on a much smaller scale. My intent with these powerful words also is to start an upheaval, much like our founding fathers so many years ago, but here and now for all students. My intent with these powerful words is to dissolve our bands with ISU Dining.

Let facts be submitted to a candid world:

For raising the charge of nourishment: The current system of meal plans range from $6.15 to $9.23 per meal, depending on how large or small the plan is. Comparatively, buying groceries once every two weeks at a maximum rate of $60 per visit equates out to just more than $4.28 per day. If you separate that out even more for three meals per day, it would cost $1.43 per meal. Still not factoring out snacks and the fact I don’t use all of everything I buy in each two-week time span, the math more or less speaks for itself.

The point being, fending for one’s own meals saves money. We all are, or will be shortly, broke college students, and saving money in any respect is beneficial now as well as in the long run.

But, shout the masses, dorm-room cooking is all improbable, as many students hardly know how to eat correctly, let alone cook.

Alright then, maybe ISU Dining does right by preparing food for the less culinarily inclined students.

But, say I in further rebuttal, that still doesn’t account for the average of more than $7.50 per meal. In perspective, think of it as paying for and eating a two-entree Panda Express meal three times per day. While it must be nice to eat out all the time, the sad fact is I can think of many restaurants which serve food just as tasty for less than $7.50.

So ISU Dining, I turn my declaration to you.

For offering what is extra instead of offering what is needed: I present the salad bar. The next time you make your own version of a chef’s salad, look down at all your options: Not one, but three kinds of lettuce, including mixed greens, romaine and spinach; multiple proteins, often ham, bacon, eggs, beans and tofu; several veggies, too many to even try naming; various fruit selections and specialty salad choices; dry nuts and “bird seed” toppings; and who-knows-how-many dressings at the end.

Now think back to the last time you went to an all-you-can-eat buffet. Which had more salad bar options? I am willing to bet on ISU Dining. This expanse extends to the other service lines as well.

Why do we have these options? That’s right, because iceberg lettuce and four or five basic dressing options aren’t enough for us, whether our opinion matters or not. Yes, some people do have dietary concerns, but catering to the few through the masses at every single station does not compute. Provide those specialized options, but please, scale them back.

For incorrectly assessing faulty logic: The excess of options also extends outside of residential dining. A new feature this year at the MU Food Court is three sides with a meal bundle, instead of the previous limit of two. This addition assuredly stems from students wanting more bang for their buck, and what other way to provide such buck-banging than to give students more food? Because lowering the prices for just the two sides would result in disorder and chaos upending all, forcing cats and dogs to cohabitate. But I suppose they called it the freshman 15 for a reason, and ISU Dining assuredly does not inhibit waistlines.

As they put on their song and dance number to keep us in the dark, we must stop and ask ourselves, “Is this really necessary?” Is it necessary to buy gourmet coffee drinks every morning and afternoon when we can make coffee in our own residence hall rooms or apartments? Is it really necessary for them to offer more food to appease us to the cost? Is it really necessary for the new State Gym to feature a smoothie stand, undoubtedly offering sugar-loaded beverages that most likely will counteract the purpose of a workout? Incidentally, the next time you pass by the still unfinished State Gym, wave goodbye to your tuition dollars. But that is a whole other article.

For blackening the eye of good workers: Despite making it appear so, the corporation of ISU Dining is not completely cloak-and-daggers. The cooks in each of the centers are excellent, both in skill and personality. The student workers, despite their underappreciating managers and patrons, are kind and hard-working; I know I was when I worked at Season’s.

But there is a problem here, and it stems from the managerial staff catering to its own needs. Just walking around the recently renovated centers (are we now up to five?), you can tell they are doing everything they can to keep the corporation afloat, which apparently includes expanding the food selection unnecessarily, jacking up the prices and in general, playing nicely with no one.

By the by, if you ever have the chance to meet the Food Lady, our delightful head of ISU Dining Nancy Levandowski, please, do send her my regards.

Many of you will now go about your routines with on-campus food staying toward the forefront of your schedules. But do remember the next time you purchase a hazelnut soy-milk iced latte or leave an uneaten slice of apple-stuffed smoked pork loin on the dirty dish line, you are encouraging the beast to gluttonize. When will it stop? Either when we as a student body wake up and realize the illusion, or when the university chooses not to renew their contract.

Until that day, ISU Dining will continue expanding its markets, expanding our waistbands and all the while slimming our wallets.