If you happen to see a girl holding a small black lunch bag power walking across the quad because someone thought it was a good idea to schedule classes 10 minutes apart, it’s probably me. That lunch bag is filled with snacks from Trader Joe’s (best grocery store, sorry Wegmans) to hold me over until I have to begrudgingly head to one of the dining halls out of sheer hunger. Most of the time I head to Douglass (unless it’s the weekend) because they change up the menu somewhat in comparison to Danforth. I know a lot of people like the Pit, but everything there other than Rocky’s has disappointed me. I went to Roots and Shoots once, but it’s currently closed for forever, which is a damn shame because it was actually really good.
Just as a disclaimer, I am not in any way bashing the employees who work at the dining halls. It is no joke feeding thousands of students and faculty a day, especially while understaffed and overworked. My thoughts and complaints are mostly aimed at the higher powers that control the University dining system.
This is my first year at UR, and I realized pretty quickly that food-wise, campus is kind of desolate. Even in College Town, the food selection isn’t particularly diverse. I’m from northern New Jersey, and trips to New York City just to grab a bite were a common occurrence. I was used to having access to a thousand different cultures and cuisines just across the George Washington Bridge. I truly miss being able to go to Chinatown for Gong Cha (a bubble tea chain that puts Tai Chi to shame) and dim sum and then head uptown to Los Tacos No. 1 for some of the best tacos around, all in one afternoon. I know that I can’t exactly compare Manhattan to Rochester, but I still wasn’t prepared for the extent of the food barrenness. Sure, you could say there are plenty of good restaurants downtown, but trekking miles off campus just for a meal isn’t feasible for most students. We can’t carve out over an hour to take the shuttle to Eastman when I (and others) can barely find time to eat between classes. Most of the off-campus restaurants are also typically way out of the average college student’s budget, especially for those who already have dining hall swipes to use or a declining balance.
When I went to Grab-and-Go for the first time this week, I promptly walked out without getting anything (also because they were somehow out of coffee?). The price of the food simply did not match its quality or quantity. A sad looking chicken wrap that was smaller than the palm of my hand at the Grab-and-Go was $7.25! The first thought I had was how much of a better meal I could get with the same amount of money in NYC. Or even in College Town, for just a dollar more, I could get a much more substantial and filling burrito bowl at Chipotle.
Living near one of the most diverse and populous cities in the country, the people I knew with various kinds of dietary needs could find a place to eat relatively easily. But here? Not so much. I personally don’t have any dietary restrictions, but I can only imagine how much more limited the options are for those who do have them. Whether you’re gluten-free, dairy-free, lactose-free, vegetarian, vegan, have allergies, or any other kinds of restrictions, your choices are severely limited. It’s not that if you have a specific diet you won’t find anything to eat, it’s just that you can’t choose because you’ll be lucky to find one thing you can eat. It’s not right that these students either have to eat the same things every day or they have to take extra time and money to get food elsewhere. I do think that UR is on the better end when compared to the food at some other universities, but sometimes it still feels like I’m living in a desert of processed wheat and dairy, with the occasional tumbleweed of a properly cooked vegetable.