Is it just me or is everyone hungry? I am constantly complaining to friends and fellow Vanderbilt students that I feel weak from starvation. They also comment on the wrath of my “hangriness,” a.k.a the monster that takes over your body when you are hungry. Recently, I feel like my portion sizes at campus dining have grown smaller and smaller, and the operating hours are shorter and shorter. What legitimate college student finishes eating at 8 p.m.? Also, I first thought that maybe my American-sized meals have led me to a false notion of a correct serving size, but recently it feels like things have gotten absurd for me at the campus dining halls.
Before I begin with my personal experience with the food, let me just say a brief disclaimer. First, the dining staff has been lovely. This opinion piece is in no way a reflection of them, but more about my experience with the physical food and my own rants as to why I am having that experience. Second, these are my opinions so I know everyone’s experience will be different, and this is in no way representative of everyone. Third, I fully realize I am very dramatic sometimes. So, keep those things in mind as you read about my opinion.
Do you wanna complain?
Also, exciting news! Did The Flip break your TV? Do you have cockroaches in your room? Has your underwear been stolen from the washer? If any of these things sound similar to an experience you had had, click here to speak your mind about your less than amazing experiences so far at Vandy. MCL is starting a new series about undergraduate rants and grievances, so we want to hear what you have to say. Everything can be anonymous so feel free to “air the dirty laundry,” if you will. Anyways, let’s get back to my laundry list of complaints about dining.
Just let us eat, Chancellor Diermeier
My Laundry List of Complaints:
- The portion sizes are way too small
- The options have increased, but they are limited to the responsible students who plan their meals day ahead
- The dining halls close at 8 p.m. (or earlier), which is unreasonable for students with late classes or labs
In the fall, I didn’t particularly like the food served at the various dining halls, but I felt like I could at least get nutrients. Everything was streamlined to be in compliance with COVID-19 protocols, which took away all options of food. Only one meal was available, and it usually left much to be desired. Yet, the serving sizes were usually sufficient that I could survive off of a side of fries. I could also depend on Suzie’s for my iced Chai, salads, or bagels, so I felt content with the offerings, but not completely happy with the absurd price for campus dining. The fall wasn’t great with the food content, but I had faith and empathy for dining services as they adjusted to serving food in a pandemic.
So, imagine my surprise when over Winter Break, Vanderbilt’s campus dining Instagram was boasting about “new” and “improved” meals and menus. I wanted to trust you, Vanderbilt Campus Dining, but you have failed me yet again. I am so happy you brought back Randwich, pasta stations, and the Mongolian option, but those are false promises when I have to order them several days ahead. I barely know what I am doing when I wake up. How am I supposed to know what I am going to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner three days ahead?
What I End Up Eating
Here is an example of the portions I usually receive. For breakfast, most of the time I receive one small square of French toast and two strips of bacon. For lunch, I am given approximately 30 grains of rice, which tastes like saturated cardboard, and two droplets of queso atop three measly strips of lettuce. Side note, I have had Fresh Mex TEN days in a row, since only two walk-in stations are open at Rand. There are several order-ahead options, but if you forgot to schedule order your food three days ahead, then you’re out of luck and at the mercy of the dining gods. The other walk-up station is usually dry chicken or pasta, that several times has had hair in it that is most definitely not mine, and mushy potatoes. For dinner, I usually venture off campus and use my meal money, since my body screams at me to put in some type of edible nutrients.
These dining experiences have been my own personal nightmare. I feel unsatisfied each night as my tummy is rumbling with pleas of help. I understand I have the power to buy groceries and snack during the day. I am an adult that can buy food. Yet, why are we paying such outrageous prices for food, that in my opinion, is barely edible and repetitive or unavailable unless you order it days or a week in advance? I feel frustrated and without options some days for what to eat, so most of the time I just don’t. I also feel frustrated by the hours of operation at these dining halls. The Munchie Marts provide late-night snacks, but I want a hot meal after I finish my chemistry exam at 9 p.m. on a cold Winter’s night, without having to use GrubHub or walk somewhere at night.
Where is All the Money Going?
I am also #broke, so I don’t want to spend money each week buying groceries for food that I am already paying for at the dining hall. I have consulted other Vanderbilt freshmen, and they wholeheartedly agree with my annoyance over the portion sizes. I must also include that some freshmen are completely content with the dining halls and serving sizes. But, in my very informal research among friends, 8/10 were unsatisfied by what was being served and how much food they received.
I wonder if the answers to most of my complaints are because of cutbacks Vanderbilt has had to make in response to the pandemic. I am a rational human being (sometimes), so I understand these changes, yet I am still paying $5,373 per year for food that seems barely edible and is very scarce. They must be saving tons of money by overcharging for what little portions they give us. This leads me to some pretty crazy conspiracy theories as to what Vandy might be doing with all this spare money:
- Vanderbilt wants to be the first college to declare the “Freshman -15”
- Chancellor Diermeier is using the extra money to buy his nice suits and extra-firm hair gel. Come on dude, you have enough suits and your hair already looks great. Let us kids eat our respectably-sized chicken tenders
- Vanderbilt wants to revamp the underground tunnels in order to breed more squirrels in high-tech labs (I know, I know, cliché squirrel joke)
“Please, Sir, I want some more” – Oliver Twist
Now, let me say that I understand COVID-19 has taken a toll on monetary and creative resources. I understand and empathize with campus dining that it isn’t easy, but I am also not asking for a three-star Michelin meal. I literally just want to order eat a sufficient meal without having to beg for more rice in my Fresh Mex bowl or something other than dry chicken and oversaturated pasta. I also want to be paying a respectable price for these dining services. I want to be able to walk into a dining hall and just get a sandwich or chicken tenders. Please, Vandy Campus Dining, if you’re reading this, please just give us more food. We are getting hangry.