Disgustingly Expensive

Students Speak Out Against Meal Plans

A rather costly and er, appetizing, Chartwell’s meal Photo Erin Sparks

When I found out that buying a meal plan was a requirement to live in residence at Concordia, I didn’t think much of it. I figured the food probably wouldn’t be the greatest, but hey, I didn’t have a choice.

Recent reports have revealed that Chartwells—the sole company responsible for this school’s food services—lost Concordia $51,000 last year. With this deficit and the less-than-appetizing food in mind, I can’t help but wonder why I’m paying such a ridiculous amount to a company that’s losing my school money.

Meal plans in residence start at $3,721 for an entire academic year, with the most expensive option costing $3,980. Even if the food was delicious and nutritious, it would still be significantly more expensive than letting students buy their own groceries.

“When I was budgeting for first year, I knew that I could make better food for much less if I was cooking for myself,” said Meghan Gagliardi, a resident who pays for her living and university expenses on her own.

Options are limited for people who are tired of eating at the cafeteria. There are some options where residents can use the ‘flex dollars’ from their meal plan to buy pre-packaged food from Chartwells. Beyond that, however, there’s not much else you can do—especially if you’re on a tight budget.

“I can’t afford to buy groceries all the time and I can’t afford to go out since I’ve already spent all my money on Chartwells,” Gagliardi said.

Each “all you care to eat” Chartwells meal costs $9.75—plus tax. For people eating one to two such meals a day, which most people do, this means you’re spending at least $20 on food a day, a sum that could be much better spent elsewhere.

Students’ main issue with Chartwells, besides the fact that it’s incredibly overpriced, is the lack of both quality and variety.

“I would never pay $10.00 for a meal like that anywhere else,” said Joel Abrahams, a journalism student living in residence. “I haven’t had a meal that’s impressed me. Everything’s either decent or poor quality.”

At the Loyola cafeteria, there are two constants at meal times:

the grill and stir-fry section. The hot food section, although it changes daily, also does not offer much variety. Each meal includes some sort of meat, rice or pasta, and mystery veggies—and you’re more than likely to see one of these dishes being served multiple times a week.

For vegetarians, there are even fewer options. “It’s tough to get your money’s worth,” said psychology student Kathleen Litzenberger, a pescetarian. “There’s just not enough protein served.”

Litzenberger listed many concerns. She won’t touch the deep-fried, breaded oily cutlets of fish that Chartwells serves every few weeks. She also said that she’s talked to a manager about getting more options in the salad bar. She’d like to see food such as avocado, cheese, yogurt, and smoked salmon—but she’s not holding her breath.

Plans either need to be made optional, more affordable, or there needs to be a serious upgrade in the quality of the food. In terms of the quality and variety, students living in residence deserve a higher standard of eating—especially if they aren’t given the option to opt out.

If this system is losing Concordia money on top of everything else that’s wrong with it, then maybe it’s time to blow it up and start anew.

“I wake up and force myself to go to the cafeteria because I’ve already invested in this food that I don’t even enjoy eating at all,” Gagliardi said.