Broke university students deserve to eat. #Onlyhere can I not even find a piece of white bread.
I pay $4574 a year for my meal plan. Throwing those numbers out there right away because, I’m going to be honest, all I can eat at Meal Hall most of the time is potatoes and bagels. How do $4500 bagels taste, you ask? Bad.
I live in one of UNB’s traditional residences. This means that having a meal plan is mandatory. There are three options, all of which are the same price, but they get you different amounts of meal cash (to spend at Tim’s, the Marketplace, Quiznos, etc.) versus taps into Meal Hall. Compared to other universities I was accepted to, I thought, “Wow! That’s pretty flexible! I can have money to spend at Tim Hortons!” I was very excited. I was even more excited when I was told by recruiters that meal hall could cook special foods for me because of my allergies and dietary restrictions.
My first term at UNB, I took them up on that offer. People at Meal Hall cooked me seperate food, and I ate it. Most of the time. See, here’s a disclaimer. I love the people who work for Sodexo, the food company that runs all the services on campus. They are lovely, lovely people who do their best. But this is an article where I’m complaining, and when I say that when I had separate food last year, what I mean is that I ate plain, unseasoned chicken breast, frozen vegetables, and rice for lunch and dinner up to 5 days a week, I’m leaving out the part where the chicken was raw. I was served raw chicken a total of five times last year, and became so sick of eating the same thing I decided to fend for myself.
I ventured off into the “regular” part of meal hall. This turned into me not having any meat for days at a time. Why? Because it was almost always beef, and I had been so traumatized by the chicken I would no longer touch it. It goes without saying that people try to avoid meat at meal hall unless it’s from a frozen patty like a burger, because even just in my personal acquaintance I can name several people who’ve had food poisoning. But now you’re asking, “Marlowe! Why didn’t you just try the vegetarian option?” Because I do not want to die.
See, most of the time at meal hall, the vegetarian option is cooked beans. Now not only do I hate beans, but I am also very, very allergic to them. So no beans for me. However, there are times where I feel brave enough to try something on the vegetarian line that doesn’t look like beans. This is where things get fun!
I always read the allergy warnings and ingredient lists they post above each dish, just to double check about possible allergens. Do you know what happened last month? I ate almonds. They were shaved paper-thin and mixed into rice, and the list above the dish said nothing about it. I didn’t go into anaphylactic shock, because luckily almonds aren’t my worst sensitivity and I spat it out before I swallowed it, but yeah. Needless to say, when I’m at meal hall I eat salad, and bagels. And sometimes, not even bagels because most have sesame seeds.
This week was the last straw. Meal Hall was actually closed between meal times. Now, I get having specific hours where hot meals are served. It reduces food waste, I get it. It sucks, because I have classes through their entire lunch hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but they leave out things like bread and salad. So, I survive another day.
However, during reading breaks, nothing is open. I mean nothing. I walked to Tim’s to get hot food, it’s closed. Marketplace? Closed. I go down to Meal Hall to grab a bagel—closed. Like, actually closed. Not just “we’re not serving hot meals right now” closed, but closed as in “you cannot have food at all under any circumstances.”
Food security is a big issue on campus. The Student Union talks about it all the time, but when I actually need food, where is it? I like the idea of having fresh herbs available in the Blue Room as much as the next person, but that isn’t a meal. I think it’s ridiculous that I’m having to spend my own money to constantly supplement my diet when I’m being forced to pay for a meal plan that costs me over $4500 a year. It’s ridiculous.
Maybe meal hall is okay if you like eating nothing but pizza and hamburgers, and only eat at very specific times of the day (that fluctuate wildly depending on the week.) However, I do not eat hamburgers, and can only stomach so much pizza. Second term last year I ate stir fry every day for lunch and dinner because it was the only healthy option. Guess how much I like stir fry now.
I am sick and tired of not being able to eat anything except bagels and spinach. I’m not a vegetarian! I like meat! I just want that $4574 to go towards finding actual food. I work two jobs, and I want to be able to save that money, instead of having to buy groceries every week when I should be getting access to healthy food. Or, you know, any kind of food.