I am a freshman this year, and though I’ve only been eating on campus for about a month, I would like to discuss my discontent with our school’s dining facilities.
Cal Poly is a wonderful school located in the middle of some of the country’s most fertile farmland, yet students are forced to purchase items including overpriced cups of prepackaged fruit, processed carbohydrates and sugary drinks as a part of the compulsory meal plan.
I understand the challenges associated with being a publicly funded university that must also provide food for huge masses of students daily. Industrial food standards obviously cannot match the quality of a home-cooked meal, but I have to imagine that we, as Mustangs, can do better. Why not partner with some of the local farmers or businesses in order to increase access to fresh, sustainable produce? Why not focus on providing students with healthy and easily accessible choices rather than turning a profit?
In the 2012-13 fiscal year, our agriculture, food and environmental sciences department alone was awarded nearly $5.5 million in funding. Why not put even a fraction of that money toward a program that could partner food science and agriculture students with Campus Dining to simultaneously improve meal choices and educate students?
Cal Poly advocates Learn By Doing. What better place to start than with the place we call home and the food we put into our bodies? Why not work to create a dining program by Mustangs, for Mustangs?
I appreciate that Campus Dining has taken steps such as including gluten-free options and adding nutrition labels to some of their offerings. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to make a difference. With limited choice in venues and constricted hours of operation, many students settle for late-night runs to VG Cafe for fried or sugary options.
To add insult to injury, the only venue that offers a decent salad bar and vegan options doesn’t allow any kind of carry-out, further restricting where and when students can eat.
I love my school and I am proud to be a Mustang.
However, our freshman meal plan is the bruise on the otherwise delicious apple that is Cal Poly. After browsing social media posts and talking with fellow students and families, I know I am not alone in my sentiments about Campus Dining.
President Armstrong, I want to thank you for always making yourself open and available to hearing students’ voices. Because of this, I have a challenge for you. Spend just two weeks eating as the freshmen on campus eat. That means eating at 19 Metro Station, VG Cafe or the Avenue twice a day, with the occasional Starbucks, slice of pizza or cup of frozen yogurt. Live like a student by buying cereal or yogurt for breakfast, undergoing the 45-minute commute to get to the local Target and then only buying enough to store on a single mini-fridge shelf.
If after two weeks you feel physically healthy, mentally sharp and content that your $4,693 of tuition is being put to good use, then I’ll eat my words — so to speak.