By Ren Okawa, Molly Motes, Michael Graham, and Brady Reis
Students at the University of Missouri – St. Louis (UMSL) are struggling with the limited food options in and around campus in the fall 2021 semester as more in-person classes begin and UMSL gradually starts to resume their dining services to more normal operations.
Since the return to more in-person classes, students have been adjusting to life back on campus. This has resulted in more students finding themselves disappointed with several aspects of the current food situation on and around UMSL’s campus. Multiple students have begun to list a few critiques of the current system in the hopes that change is in the near future.
One problem that students face is that the available hours of food options at UMSL are not always convenient. “Breakfast options are limited,” said Kelsey Coulter, a student who lives at Oak Hall. She can only eat at Einstein’s Bagels in the morning, but instead of meal blocks, she must use her declining balance there. This means she cannot get breakfast once she runs out of her declining balance. Additionally, she said, “I can’t get anything at Provincial Hall until 11 - which is when my class starts.”
Malik Taylor-Allen, a student who works with the Student Food Advisory Committee at UMSL, said, “Late night options on campus are limited.” He wishes that UMSL could offer options that are closer to grocery stores in nature so that students with limited transportation options could make home-cooked meals more often. However, he says that due to the fact all students in Oak Hall share only one kitchen, "It is hard to cook at Oak Hall because it is not clean.” He also says that more vegetarian options are needed on campus. “Even though they have salad, more seasonal and fresh vegetable options would be nice.”
With their few coffee options, students are fighting off drowsiness as well. Long Lam, a liberal studies major, mentioned, “The only café where we can get coffee is only open from 8am to 1pm, even though some students need caffeine in the afternoon.” He also says that, “The number of vending machines which offer coffee is way too low.” Further, he adds that many of the times when he has bought soda for his caffeine fix, he has been greeted with flat sodas instead. This has led him to question how often the vending machines’ contents are refreshed in spite of being a popular way students get something to drink with limited café hours.
However, UMSL is working with Sodexo to try to relieve student’s dissatisfaction with their food options. Sodexo has a contract with the university to oversee all the food options. “We try to give students and faculty as much variety as possible,” said Bob Marx, the general manager of Sodexo. He additionally explained that they have a Student Food Advisory Committee where the students give them feedback about student food preferences. “We have registered dieticians and so forth. When we build our food menus, everything is taken into consideration such as allergens, which are very big right now.”
Unfortunately, the problem of limited food options not only exists on campus, but also outside of campus. Lucas Maurer, an international student from Austria, complained about the few food choices available around campus. “We do not have a car because we are international students. So, it is hard to get good restaurants while walking.” Students living on campus are able to get food by delivery services. Even though they benefit from the convenience, they still feel some dissatisfaction with the system. Maurer said, “We can use UberEATS, but it is more expensive, and food is not fresh.” He further echoed Taylor-Allen’s wish for a closer grocery store to avoid paying the high price for Instacart.
While UMSL and Sodexo are working hard with the Student Food Advisory Committee to provide students with good varieties of food, it seems there are still a few problems that have left UMSL students craving better options. With limited meal options, short café hours, and difficulty obtaining groceries, students on campus seem to be waiting for UMSL to unveil either longer hours or more options when it comes to food on campus.