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Meal plans fail to meet students’ needs

Food. It's pretty important. Everyone needs it to survive, but students in particular need it to maintain working energy and to successfully process information. Students are hungry on campus for a lot of reasons. Sometimes it's our own fault, but for the most part it's because Mills is not providing adequate dining services. And we don't just need food, we need nutrition.

The grill in the Tea Shop offers buttery, sugary, fatty fried foods. Founders Commons is increasingly offering more of the same, with less options for healthy, well-balanced meals. Starch seems to be the name of the game up that hill. Cafe Suzie's, while offering healthier foods, more vegetarian options and extended hours, is too limited with just sandwiches and snacks.

The truth is, as much as we complain about cafeteria food or nasty grease, Mills students are lucky to have the services we do. The system is supposed to be set up so that we always have meals available (although there are, of course, cracks in the system). Maybe the chicken is a little dry and the tofu is a little hard (or bland or salty or the same thing everyday), but at least we get our protein. Monthly theme dinners prove that our Founders chefs know what they're doing, and accommodating the diets of hundreds of people is probably a difficult thing to do gourmet-style every day.

It's too much to expect perfection from the dining services staff. Fish will be slimy, and tomatoes will be grainy. Sometimes you may find a toothpick in your lasagna, or a band-aid in your salad, and that's obviously not cool. Mistakes happen. Let's complain about the things that can be institutionalized, the things that people can be held accountable for. Move on from the griping, eat some cereal, and then write a letter to your local HMDS. Attend one of the food forums that are held on campus, like the one this week that no students attended. Next time you whine, remember how many opportunities there are for students to voice their concerns. Because we all know there are plenty of cracks in the system that we should be angry about, and these are some we'd like to voice:

Students without points included in their plan are expected to fill up using $3.75 at the Tea Shop or Suzie's. This chunk of change barely buys a snack, let alone a healthy one. If residents lose their meal cards, they're expected to fork up either ten dollars for a new one, or pay for each $7.25 lunch and $9 meal until they find their cards (meals they've already paid for). Sure, it's our responsibility to keep track of our cards, but the administration needs to get in touch with our reality. We lose things, and many of us are already struggling to pay our tuition, to buy our books, to fill the gas tanks in our cars.

Those of us lucky to have friends could conceivably share swipes. We don't know how the dining services budget balances out at the end of the year, but we do know that there is plenty of pre-paid food not getting eaten. Sometimes we don't use all our meals in a week, and if we have a hungry friend we should be able to use that fifteenth swipe on them. No such luck, unless you have points. Shouldn't meal swipes be preferred to points, if the administration is really concerned about our nourishment? Points buy alcohol, chicken tenders and candy. A meal at the Tea Shop isn't really a solid meal unless you get the lunch special or splurge at the salad bar and grill.

It is unfair to assume that every student here is privileged enough to have a full wallet and parents who fill their bank accounts. Some of us have no money to our names because everything is already going to the school, so why can't Mills figure out a way to feed us the food we've already paid for? At one time, students could fill out meal vouchers at Founders, so that we'd never have to go without a meal just because we were without our cards. Now that the student population is growing, it seems that the administration is less able to meet our needs. Shouldn't it be the other way around, or has someone just gotten lazy?