BORA ZALOSHNJA ’20
In this highly divisive, political time in history, Trinity students seem to be divided on so many issues. One thing the majority of us seem to agree on is our feelings towards Chartwells. Whether they’re Republican or Democrat, Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, Giants or Patriots fans, many students are dissatisfied with the food here.
If you are one of the 90+ percent of students living on campus, being on a meal plan is mandatory. The only exception to this rule are members of the Trinity authorized eating clubs at The Hall, Psi U, and AD. There are only four meal plans, and one of them is only available to select people, so options are fairly limited.
Before Senior year, the cheapest option is the 19 Traditional Plan, costing $2480 per semester. This plan gives you 19 meals a week at Mather and allows you to use five of them per week at the Cave between the hours of 2pm and 5pm. The second option is Mather unlimited, costing $2900 per semester, which gives you unlimited meals at Mather, five meals a week in the Cave between 2pm and 5pm, three guest meals a semester, and 100 Meal Plan Dollars. The third and most popular option is the 15 Flex Plan, which also costs $2900 per semester. It gives you 15 meals a week at any of the three dining facilities and 300 Meal Plan Dollars. The Senior Plan is the cheapest, ringing in at $1950 per semester and giving you 10 meals a week to be used anywhere and 400 dining dollars. This plan is only available to seniors, as well as the aforementioned students exempt from buying any meal plan at all.
The nearly $6000 perschool-year plans are well above $4500, the average price of a two semester college meal plan as reported by the Department of Education. They’re even more than the average amount of money the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a single person spends on food during all twelve months of the year: $3989.
With an above average price, one would assume that the food is also above average. Unfortunately, this is not the case. On the popular college rating service Niche.com that gives letters grades to different aspects of student life, the food scores a C. In their 2018 rankings of 1,384 college dining services, Trinity’s dining was ranked too low to be assigned a numerical ranking because it didn’t fall into the top 500.
Even without rankings, it isn’t hard to figure out Trinity students are unhappy with the food. It’s hard to go very long here without hearing someone complain about the taste or quality of their meals.
Sometimes there are solutions to people’s problems with the food. If someone doesn’t like the Mather chicken they could theoretically get their chicken from the Bistro or Cave. Flex is a popular plan because it allows the greatest degree of choice in when and what to eat. “As a picky, careful eater, Flex works for me because I’m able to switch up my food routine,” says sophomore Anna Moore.
This is unfortunately not the case for everyone though. Some people cannot afford the more expensive plans which allow you to get food from all three dining spaces, and they are not always open at the same time. People with time commitments or money constraints are often limited to only one or two locations.
People with dietary restrictions have it even harder. While Chartwells does their best to offer vegan, gluten free, kosher, halal, nut-free options they are somewhat limited. Mather has the most options for those with restrictions, but Mather is not always open and all the different stations at Mather open only at busier times and days.
“As a vegetarian I managed here, but now that I’m a vegan it’s significantly harder because a lot of the healthy food options that I used to eat like vegetable dishes at Mather contain butter or eggs,” says sophomore Eliza Petrie. As a result of this lack of options, people with restricted diets either have to eat unhealthily or purchase food outside of their meal plan.
Now to give credit where credit is due, Chartwells does try to be accommodating and constantly introduce new options. Chartwells also has some wonderful employees who work very hard to keep us happy and healthy.
For some people, the meal plan works just fine and they have no complaints. Even some of the people who grumble about it wouldn’t opt out if they had the chance because the convenience of not having to grocery shop or make their own food.
But, in the age of growing health consciousness the amount of people who follow particular diets for medical, athletic, aesthetic, and ideological reasons is rising. It’s admittedly hard to cater to all the different allergies, diets, and preferences out there. Chartwells does make an effort to include something for everyone but it is a nearly impossible task to provide food for all the different combinations and permutations of diets.
The school should not be making students pay for an expensive plan if it isn’t fulfilling their needs or wants. It’s especially unfair to be mandating purchase of a plan to students with medical or religious dietary restrictions. If Trinity wants a healthier and happier student body they need to either lower the prices of meal plans, raise the quality of the dining services, or allow more students to opt out.