For a lack of better words, the new dining situation on campus profoundly sucks. There’s only one real dining hall open — Douglass — and a “variety” of other limited options that are either too expensive for regular use — Grubhub — or serving food you definitely don’t want to eat everyday — Starbucks, the Pit, Rocky’s, and food trucks. And not everyone has the ability to increase their declining during this new so-called convenient change period.
Yes, we deserve some sort of refund, and it looks like we’ll be getting 20%. Yes, we deserve a better, more constructive acknowledgement from the University that doesn’t just promise action but follows through on that action. We can’t just stop eating while we wait for a committee to decide on the “best” way to feed us, whatever they think that is. If I could, I’d chain myself to Douglass in protest — as my dad has suggested a couple times — but between an internship, an on-campus job, and classes, I don’t have the time. Sorry, dad.
So, I’m writing this article instead (still proud of me, dad…yes?).
Now you must be thinking, “What more could I possibly have to say?” CT articles about dining have already been done and I’m sure you’ve heard enough (valid) complaints from all your friends to last a lifetime. But believe me when I say I have something I think we — and more importantly the University — are overlooking in this dining crisis.
The University is fostering a triggering environment for those struggling with or recovering from eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and unhealthy body image.
As an introvert, I’m already disincentivized from attending dining locations with crowds, especially if I have no friends to go with. Now with only one real dining hall open, skipping meals and holing up in my room is looking better and better.
Skipping meals should not appear to be the better option.
Besides being an introvert, I struggle daily with body dysphoria. My relationship with food is complicated — it fluctuates and I’m trying to get a handle on it. Having a routine with decent, reliable food is part of this handling. Danforth was my safe space and now it’s closed. And I’m sure other people’s safe spaces have closed or been altered due to limited hours and menus.
I’m trying to regain the ability to enjoy food without guilt. But to achieve this, food has to be more than fuel to me. And at this point it’s just not. The new dining circumstances have obliterated the enjoyment from eating. Consider this:
I go to Douglass for lunch because I still have meal swipes and my meal plan hasn’t changed to all declining yet. I wait behind 20 other people (half of whom are using credit cards) just to get into the dining hall itself. I swipe my ID and go on my way.
I navigate through the narrow corridor, bumping several people and suffocating from social anxiety. I wait in another line of at least 10 people at the one station serving food I want to eat. Got my food. I grab a drink, hunch over to make sure the cup is under the sensor and manage to douse my hand in liquid from the drink I didn’t want. Great. I sit down with my food, take a bite, and realize the food I waited in two lines for is actually mediocre at best. I leave completely dejected.
But there are more dining locations on campus, right? The University claims there’s still plenty of options with quality food. But, as my dad said to me the other day, this may just be another one of their hyperbolic lies (you can find more on their dining FAQs).
So next time I decide to avoid Douglass completely and go to the Pit. Day after day I rotate between the Grill, the Wok, and Rocky’s. But as the days turn into weeks, the Pit food starts to make me feel gross. The guilt from eating food I know I shouldn’t be eating every day starts to build up, and the little physical flaws my body dysphoria loves to accentuate begin to toy with me.
I look in the mirror.
My thighs are suddenly much bigger than I remember — they jiggle drastically when I move. Bat wings of fat hang down from my arms. My one stomach roll that only appears when I sit, has turned into multiple while I’m standing. I rest my hands on my hips and feel the fat being scrunched together by my elastic waistband.
I hate what I see. I hate what I feel. I hate me.
I know I’m not alone. I know others experience this horrible, degrading, gut-wrenching feeling every day. And while we all have our coping mechanisms, food quality and accessibility are huge factors most of us cannot ignore.
I’m stuck between either eating accessible food and feeling disgusted with my body, or skipping meals and being hungry for most of the day. Both are unhealthy. Both are options I shouldn’t have to consider. I can continue eating at Douglass, but the food will never be more than fuel, and rebuilding a healthy relationship with food comes to a grinding halt.
Having a safe space for food is not asking too much of the University. I understand there are staffing shortages and conditions the administration claims are out of their control, but overlooking students’ mental and physical health is unacceptable.
Don’t let this be another place where students cultivate hatred toward their bodies and a relationship with food that may harm them beyond their time at UR.