Culinary Experience or College Cafeteria? 

GRAPHIC BY MORGAN LEE/GRAPHICS CENTER

The smell of chicken tenders, pizza, and burgers fills the air and the question “for here or to go?” rings from every station. But, with countless students required to have University meal plans, the question is: are they really enjoying it? And, is the food mid, or a straight across-the-board ten?

In the two-and-a-half months I have been a student here, I have dedicated each day to documenting and trying all the food each caf has to offer. From my time at USF, I have concluded the food experience at USF falls short of a ten due to the small portion sizes and lack of options. 

I interviewed students to get their uncut opinion on the Market Café’s food. Carl Levy III, a second-year business analytics major, said, “There have been instances where the chicken is undercooked, the rice is too clumpy — we are paying for this and we should get the best food possible.” 

Dissatisfaction with the caf food is a repetitive cycle that can be traced back to Rate My Professor online reviews from 2018. The bulk of the reviews share the same sentiment: “The food is not good” and in simpler words, “Food is trash.”

Another common complaint is the portion sizes. According to the Bon Appetit website, students are served “reasonable portion sizes based on the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.” According to those guidelines, we should be eating six ounces of starch or grains per day and an ounce and a half of dark green vegetables, but this is not the case for many students at USF. 

“It is really irritating getting small portions of food when you are paying all of this money for it,” said Chidera Awujo, a first-year engineering major. “There are many times when I go to bed hungry because I get too small of portions for dinner and have nothing else to eat.”

First-year computer science major Andrew Amadasu said, “I think nutrition and portion sizes are tricky because not everyone needs the same amount of calories or mass of food.”

The caf also has a lack of options. Rotating between the grill and pizza, when our two main courses aren’t appealing — or available— becomes repetitive.

For students who want more options, the Open Door Cafè on Lone Mountain stands out with its variety of poke, pho, acai bowls, sushi, and more. But, with these diverse options comes a hefty price tag. 

Lunch costs anywhere from $16 to $20,  $2 away from the recommended spending price to stay within your Flexi plan. As a result of this problem, there are many students who worry their Flexi money will run out. 

“My aunt calculated how many meals I needed to eat in a day in order to not run out towards the end of September,” said first-year architecture major Halle Williams. “I’m above my recommended Flexi because I’ve been skipping breakfast.”

In response to student concerns about the high prices, Resident District Manager at Bon Appetit Crystal Chon Wun said, “As is the case across the nation, we continue to feel the effects of inflation, which is affecting gas, food, and labor costs.”

While the caf can improve by providing balanced food options, proper portions, and affordable prices, Bon Appetit ensures that they are providing locally sourced and organic food through their Farm to Fork initiative.

The Bon Appetit website states that Farm to Fork promises “seasonal ingredients from small, owner-operated farms and ranches within a 150-mile radius of your café.” This initiative is beneficial to the consumers, the community, and the farmers. With assurance of quality food products taken care of, Bon Appetit should focus on ensuring that the complaints of students are heard. They may not be able to reduce the prices of food but they can work to make more options available for students at all times. 

To this point, Wong said “my team and I are always very open to having a conversation.” She noted that there is space to voice complaints with your contact information on the Bon Appetit website so that management can respond. 

College is a huge life adjustment as well as adjusting to the food; going from homemade food to mass produced cafeteria food is not an easy hurdle. While the caf may never be Michelin starred — it is still a cafeteria at the end of the day — small improvements could go a long way. 

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