Anyone walking into Hillside would instantly notice the eye-watering prices — $2 for a pack of Top Ramen, $5.29 for a box of 30 Saltines, $5.59 for a single head of garlic. However, the problem is far worse than it first appears. When buying a meal plan, a student must spend about $1.30 for every declining dollar. Thus, the true prices of Hillside products are astronomical — $2.58 for ramen, $6.90 for saltines, $7.29 for garlic. Hillside’s Grubhub menu (yes, Hillside is on Grubhub for some reason) allows one to explore this capitalistic wet dream where prices are often double the already-exorbitant price: $15.18 for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ($19.79 in actual money), $16.18 for Oreos (really $21.10), $22.58 for a pound of frozen ground beef ($29.44).
If you wanted to make a plate of nachos with beef, cheddar cheese, garlic, tomatoes, and tortilla chips (and you decided to actually pay for food at Hillside), you would have to shell out over $55. If you don’t have the oil and seasonings to make an actually edible meal and you decide to also snag some spices from Hillside, you would end up paying anywhere from $60-$70 (or you can stick to that $55 cost if you’re really white). Even with President Mangelsdorf’s $900,000 salary, this is absurdly expensive.
Now, I cannot speak to the quality of those nachos, but for a price like that they’d better be life-changing. (If any readers decide to make these extortion nachos, I would be interested to know if you instantly attained enlightenment, transcended this mortal plane, and reached nirvana.) If, however, you are still trapped in this wintry hellscape, at least be glad that Hillside didn’t charge you even more. Because, ultimately, Hillside is a monopoly predicated on the fact that you are required to have a meal plan. Even without stealing, many people like myself have extra declining at the end of the year, leaving two options: 1) Become a Declining Daddy™ or 2) Spend your extra declining fueling the cartel that is Hillside Market.
As a Senator for the class of 2022, I am working to reform the meal plan system in order to give students more options. I met with a representative of Dining Services to discuss some ideas, but when I broached the subject of lowering the amount of money required from students for a meal plan, the response was rather disheartening. I was told that “this was an issue of money” and that giving the students more options would “be a problem” for dining. They claimed that this could potentially result in certain dining locations having to close, despite the fact that certain dining locations are already closed while we still pay the same fees. Because of their unwillingness to see a loss of profit, we have to take matters into our own hands. But before you feel bad about theft from the innocuous-sounding “Harvest Table” that serves our food, you should know about their wage theft.
“Harvest Table” was quietly launched in 2019 by the international multibillion-dollar company Aramark to get away from the company’s bad branding. Aramark has a long history both of working with UR and of reprehensible behavior. The United States government first took legal action against the company in 1964, and have since done so too many times to list here. But just in the last decade or so, Aramark has served food infested with maggots, suppressed unions, violated labor laws, caused a disease outbreak in Ontario that killed over a dozen people, benefited greatly from the prison-industrial complex, and even sparked a prison riot in Kentucky because of poor food quality.
As it stands, every student at UR is required to give money to this heinous company, even if they don’t live on campus. With every swipe of your ID, you are supporting a company that pays employees minimum wage while their CEO makes $5 million a year, which somehow makes Sarah Mangelsdorf’s salary seem reasonable. Even when you are paying for a drink at Starbucks (which is a whole different ethical can of worms), you are supporting a company that uses unpaid prison labor (read: legal slavery), because the Starbucks on campus is operated by Aramark. If you are on campus and need food, you should go to the dining halls and take more dollars worth of food than you paid for. You should even take the fresh fruits and vegetables sitting as displays. And if you need to get something from Hillside, it is your moral duty to steal it. Just as they rob us blind, so too must we rob Hillside.