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Delaney ’15: A note on dining services

By
Opinions Columnist

You know what really grinds my gears? Brown Dining Services. I’ve been a little tense about how food services around here are run for a while now, but when a friend of mine talked to me about what food is like at Boston University, it pushed me over the edge.

In comparison to BU, Brown University does not come close to adequately investing in nutrition and good food for its students. Let’s start with the meal plans.

BU offers a far more sensible range of meal plans than Brown does, providing adequate options for the average student body as well as the students at extremes of the spectrum, in particular athletes who are looking to eat often.

An athlete at BU might subscribe to the “Unlimited” plan. For $4,970, “Unlimited” subscribers receive as many meals as they would like during the week as well as $360 in dining points credit. To compare and contrast, Brown’s highest meal plan option costs only $520 less but provides only 20 meals a week and $160 less in dining points.

At the other end of the spectrum, students who are looking to eat less at cafeterias and more at actual eateries can choose the “250 Plan”. For $4,690 per year, this offers 125 meals and $545 in points credit each semester. Oh the things I could with 545 points. Too bad the only meal plan option for those of us looking to sponsor the Blue Room is Flex 460. At $4,420 per year and 250 points per semester, it’s hardly worth it.

More importantly than the meal plans, however, are the options for food that BU provides to its students. For one, students get served by an actual chef! I appreciate the efforts of students who work with BDS, but a chef makes better food than the overworked student.

For another, chefs cook the food right in front of students rather than bringing it out in pre-prepared trays and pans. I personally feel uneasy when I think of how my food is cooked in the basement and shipped up in a freight elevator. In many instances at BU, plates are made to order. Picture the quesadilla line…but for everything.

In addition to the standard dining hall options that most universities offer, BU offers the option for students to eat at an abundance of retail eateries. This includes a food court comprised of 11 different restaurants, 14 additional restaurants and café’s in various locations throughout campus, 1 full service food market, 2 late night cafes, and a pizza delivery option provided by Domino’s and Papa John’s.

Holy smokes. Tell me more.

This type of relationship with external food sources is great for several reasons. For one, it encourages competition between the franchise providers and BU dining services, offering an incentive to raise the quality of food across the board. For another, it supports local businesses that participate in BU’s program, allowing them to expose their cuisine to people who might otherwise avoid eating there if they weren’t able to use meal points at these locations.

This is something Brown could benefit strongly from. Bear Bucks and Mash Card were good ideas, but Brown really needs to take the initiative and partner with places on Thayer Street and Hope. There is great food around here and it’s ridiculous that so many of us can’t take advantage of it because financially it’s too expensive to eat out often.

It also means that Brown doesn’t have to compete with anybody to up the quality of what it serves the students. We can’t use meal credits at the Blue Room until after 4, and the semi-good food, or at least prepared food, that is served at the Gate and Josiah’s isn’t available until dinnertime. The Brown Dining System works fine if all you eat is dinner. Other than that, you’re sunk.

There is an opportunity here to provide students with high quality nutrition options if we would simply take the initiative and make it a priority. It could make a significant difference in the lives of students on campus if they had access to high quality food and nutrition.

One of the most unique aspects of the BU program is what they call the Sargent Choice program — a healthy options eating program developed in partnership with the Sargent College Nutrition and Fitness Center. The program partners with BU Dining Services to offer a custom menu of highly nutritional and healthy foods. Dieticians, graduate and undergraduate nutrition students, as well as volunteers work to create and test recipes using sustainable ingredients, low-fat options, and high nutrition foods that are made and served to students every day. The program advocates managing a healthy weight, strong self-image and academic performance, and a healthy future as proven benefits of the program.

Food is a crucial aspect of our daily lives and Brown does not invest enough in providing its students with a range of healthy options. It needs to make a more committed effort to rectify this because the rewards are so great. Healthy eating can improve every single aspect of someone’s life. But if the food’s not there, none of us have a chance.

Let’s recognize the problem and get on it, Brown.

Daniel Delaney ’15 can be reached for comment at daniel_delaney@brown.edu.

 

An earlier version of this article stated that the writer had been to Boston University and experienced firsthand the school’s dining offerings. In fact, he was told by friends about the food at BU. 

6 Comments

  1. so transfer to BU says:

    would you like BUDS to give you some organic artisanal cheese to go with that whine?

    • seniorspring says:

      Since when is writing an objective, well-written column critiquing an area of student life that leaves much to be desired considered ‘whining’? There is no denying that on average, food at Brown is mediocre at best, and the economics of the meal plans is simply ridiculous. Why wouldn’t we want to change that? Daniel does an excellent job of articulating how there are higher standards to be achieved.

    • '`*-.,_,-*'`*~-.,.~*'*~ (2014) says:

      !!!

  2. '`*-.,_,-*'`*~-.,.~*'*~ (2014) says:

    it’s pretty much par for the course for students to complain about their colleges’ food. my only friend from hs who’s emphatically happy with her meal plan goes to tufts (what is it about boston??) … i’m sure u realize that a school like BU is the exception rather than the rule, so this column comes off as whiny and entitled.

    if u have suggestions, BDS is always soliciting student opinions. didn’t u see all the signs/emails advertising the online feedback survey they were running for like 3 weeks? (it just ended.) or were u too busy looking for the sauteed kale at jo’s?

  3. (Sadly) Off Meal Plan says:

    ‘Transfer to BU’ and the other poster (not getting into all of the stars and dashes!) can call this article whiney, but the truth is that Brown’s dining options and costly meal plans are subpar to those of many comparable institutions. I thought it was very effective that Delaney used another school’s meal plan options to highlight how difficult it is for students to eat anywhere other than the Ratty/Vdub for lunch- lunch is actually the reason I went off meal plan this year.
    Brown should realize that such a poorly structured plan is probably losing them A LOT of the students who are off meal plan, which means that they are probably losing money as well. I would not have gone off meal plan if eating at the Blue Room were economically feasible, but it is much more cost efficient to use cash to pay for lunch and then make dinner on my own or buy a salad at Joes. If the lower meal/week plans were not so expensive (i.e.. brown would still make a profit, just not charge literally $12/meal for the 7 meal/week) students like me and my suite mates would still be on meal plan and they would be making some money. Losing students is not smart- if I were on meal plan, there’s a good chance I would pick up a few Chobanis at the Joes/Blue Room when I ate there, instead of going to Gourmet Heaven to buy them. For everyone’s sake, it would be much better for Brown and Brown students if the meal plan were restructured so that being on a low meal plan were more economically feasible.
    I also agree that healthier options are a huge deterrent to being on meal-plan at Brown- especially for lunch. I have never understood why the salad bar at Joes is not open for lunch instead of the Ivy Room, which is rarely if ever that busy- and Joes salad bar is much better IMO. The big issue for healthy options at Brown DIning is lunch. The school should focus less on providing vegan/vegetarian options- many of which are not that healthy if you look at the nutrition facts- and focus on providing food that is healthier.

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