Monday, May 17, 2010

The deal with the food

In my first post, I mentioned a problem with the food on campus. If any of you read it, you'd be right to be worried. If you aren't I perhaps didn't express correctly just what the situation was (and that's very likely: my original post was so short, it probably wasn't clear). In today's blog post, I'm going to explain it in more detail, and tell you how I'm going to deal with it.
My college is quite removed from the city; to put it simply, this causes it to have a sort of soup kitchen, a coffee house, and a Subway store as the only places to eat. Due to budgetary constraints, the kitchen will be closing soon; however, 42% of the students eat there, mainly because we (yes, myself included) can't afford the other two places. (Going to the city and back would take four hours, making it not be an option when you have to go to class in the afternoon.)
Looking back at it, the only thing that is clear is that I have three choices to eat; exactly three. Firstly, I'll tackle what I mean with budgetary constraints: basically, the college is out of funding. While tuition may cover the teachers' salaries, grants and donations pay for food, maintenance... heck, even the paper the exams are printed on! Donations have been falling and grants aren't rising nearly fast enough to cover the difference, and a lot of the money has already been spent. You see where I'm going with this?

The state of things
  • What I refer to as a "soup kitchen" is really a cafeteria; it just so happens that you can literally eat lunch there for a quarter (some subsidy!). Nobody calls it a cafeteria, preferring instead to call it M'n'C (because it's beside the Department of Mathematics and the Department of Computer Science, go figure). As with any cafeteria, people complain about the food; but hey, at least it's healthy!
  • The "coffee house" I mention is what we do call the cafeteria. To tell you the truth, it is a glorified hamburger stand, dealing primarily in junk food and providing patio tables for sitting.
  • The Subway is, well, a Subway® restaurant. 12-inch sub sandwiches and 6-inch sub sanwiches. You should know what I mean. Sandwiches are slightly overpriced because of how far the ingredientes have to travel to get here, making it the most expensive place to eat on campus (if I remember correctly, the 12-inch sandwiches are over $10). 
  • Of course, if you don't want healthy food, you can just grab a brownie or a doughnut from the book shop, but we're talking actual meals here.

The current budget would have M'n'C close next week. To make the the situation more managable, the Board (rector, deans, etc) decided that the M'n'C would be closing at the end of June, meaning that during the two or three weeks that span the final exams, that 42% will not have any guarantee that their brains will work during the exams! To make this possible, the Board dictated that M'n'C should limit the people they serve to 60% the normal ammount.

M'n'C is implementing this by closing before 1 PM. (M'n'C usually serves lunches from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM.) This means that anybody who is in class from before 11 to after 1, and is in the 42% that uses/needs the subsidized lunch, loses the possibility to eat lunch. There are no official numbers on how many people this is, but I estimate at most one-sixth of the student population is in class during those times.

42% of one-sixth is 7%, which is 840 students. This does not include the teachers, maintenance workers, and security personel which also eat at M'n'C (albeit paying more than a quarter).

What I'm doing to deal with it
When the board announced these measures there was a round open to questions (which, I might note, didn't receive any answers). I used this round to propose a few of ideas to fix the situation:
  1. Since it was stated that we cannot simply redirect the money given for one thing into the food, couldn't we get new donations to pay for it?
  2. If that's not possible, can't we, the students, donate the ingredients to make the food for the 40%  that is being left out until June?
  3. If that's not possible, can't we get the department that approves scholarships see who, of the people that eat at M'n'C out of habbit, can afford to eat elsewhere?
Let's just say my proposals were not taken seriously. The official stance is to write letters requesting bigger grants.

To make sure I do not fall in that 40%, I am making sure I always go straight to M'n'C as soon as I get out of my morning class (Databases 2, in case you're wondering). I also asked my mom for money (yeah, I know what you're going to say; don't say it). It's only $5, but I'm going to make sure not to spend it unless I arrive at the M'n'C and find it closed. I can only hope I'm payed for my work at the library by the time July comes around.

(I also got a feeling that the people who are going to comment are just going to lash out at the board. Oh well.)

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