Students at UTSC have many issues with the food options on campus. More often than not, it’s for good reason; however, a particular group of students have a slightly different experience than most with eating on campus: those who live on residence.
Students who live on residence do not have to rely on campus food for most meals; unlike many other universities, UTSC’s residences have full kitchens in each unit, both in the townhouses, and Foley Hall. Third-year student Bobby Hristova, who has lived on residence for three years, says, “When I first moved to residence, my experience with cooking was minimal, but I was eager to learn and improve my culinary skills. I like having the kitchen, because it allows me more freedom than a [meal] plan that I’m forced to use.”
Having kitchens included in residence units means that students are not forced to purchase a mandatory meal plan like at many other universities with traditional, dorm-style residences. Second-year student Tijuana Turner prefers having a kitchen over an enforced meal plan. She says, “It’s not fair that students would have to buy something that they won’t use or that doesn’t fit their needs.”
Third-year student Selin Eksioglu previously had a meal plan and says, “A meal plan is worth it, it’s pretty good. But it’s too much money. Even with eating most of my meals on campus, I had a lot of money left over. You are better off learning how to cook, because food options aren’t great on campus.”
When it comes to UTSC’s meal plan program, Hristova believes that there is room for improvement. “If our meal plan was similar to other universities, which include a cafeteria, people would enjoy it much more,” he suggests. “Other universities have much better quality meal plans than we do.”
Meal plans are also not particularly helpful for those looking to eat healthily on a regular basis. “The only places that are ‘healthy’ are Booster Juice, which only has a few options that are actually good for you, because most drinks are loaded with sugar, and La Prep, which is arguably the most expensive place on campus — we need more healthy options and variety,” Hristova explains.
Eksioglu adds that while the Marketplace has healthy options, such as fruit and pasta, there is still limited selection. “[UTSC] needs to have one place that cooks healthy meals and vegetables and gives you a decent portion of it,” she says.
Having a kitchen is extremely useful when it comes to late night eating; many of the food vendors on campus close as early as 8 or 9 p.m. As university students, it is not always realistic for us to have eaten dinner by this time, considering that some classes don’t finish until 10 p.m. Late night studying also has students staying on campus until midnight or later. This problem is heightened for students on residence. “As a resident, I’m living on campus. That means 24 hours, seven days a week. Now, I will admit the hours have improved, but I still only have three or four options to get food [late at night],” Hristova explains. “I can’t just order pizza all the time if I don’t have groceries. For the price residents pay to live on residence, let alone eat on campus, and [the price that] the general student population pays for food, Aramark should have enough money to improve our options, the quality of our food, and the hours of service.”
Turner recalls her own experience saying, “On the weekend at 2 p.m., I’m still sleeping. So if I wake up at 3 o’clock and you close at 2 o’clock, I have to starve unless I can cook,” she says. She adds that the hours of the Marketplace in particular aren’t flexible enough to actually eat there.
Frank Peruzzi, the Assistant Director of Food Partnerships at UTSC says that determining which hours to have vendors open is “a science.” He adds that they receive hourly reports describing when students are eating at each vendor and how much is being spent. In terms of pricing, he states that “Aramark is the highest paid food service on campus and they are unionized, so it’s hard to lower prices too much.”
Residents have a unique experience of eating at UTSC; when campus is your home, you become more invested in the selections provided to you by the university. There is constant balance struck between buying a meal plan or not, cooking or ordering in, or running to the food vendors before they close. Although there may be a learning curve, most come out knowing the ins and outs of how to eat well on campus.