Student thoughts on Parkland’s café
The U wing café is the hot spot to get food on campus. Actually, it’s the only spot to get food on campus—besides the small Cobra Market in the X wing’s main lounge, which is much smaller and closes at 2 p.m.
The Terrace Food Court, as it is officially known, offers a range of freshly-prepared foods, from chicken fingers to burritos and salads, along with fountain, bottled, and canned soft drinks, juices, and a plethora of pre-packaged snack items.
Chartwells, the company which runs the café through their Dine on Campus program, says they are committed to making their food courts more sustainable and healthy for students, and that they are accomplishing this through several goals. One of their goals is to reduce waste in the forms of water, energy, and pollution. They try to make responsible purchasing decisions and work with local companies and communities as often as possible.
Chartwells also aims to provide education about healthy lifestyles through programs such as Balanced U, which the company’s website touts as its “health, wellness, and sustainability platform…designed to provide healthy meals through enhanced menu development and educational wellness tools…”
Despite practically nil competition on Parkland’s campus proper, a small survey of Parkland students conducted by The Prospectus revealed that nearly a third of the student body has never eaten food from the food court.
One of the top cited reasons cited by these students was that they were trying to save money. Meals in the café generally range between $2–$10. Compared to the second closest option by physical distance—Hardee’s—the food court’s prices could be considered competitive, especially when factoring in its convenience for those on campus.
Despite this, students surveyed around the same time last year said that price was big factor in avoiding the food court, with law student Alex Pryde-Wate saying of the food “good quality, but pricey.”
Another reason students cited for not using the cafeteria was simply that they had no need or had no time. Many students do not have classes that require them to be on campus near meal times; in other words, they are simply not here when they are hungry. Many other students have an opposite schedule where they do have classes during lunch hours and are therefore in class instead, with no time to go to the café.
Still, most students have eaten at the Terrace Food Court and most have had at least adequate experiences, they say.
The top reason for eating at the cafeteria cited by surveyed students was convenience. Other reasons were similar, including to save gas, needing food quickly, and forgetting to bring a lunch. Some students, however, did cite good food as their top reason for eating at the cafeteria. Favorite foods included fries, burgers, the salad bar, and whatever the cheapest thing at the time is—a typical thing to hear from a college student.
However, data collected by The Prospectus in October of last year showed 33 out of 50 Parkland students—66 percent of those polled—expressed dissatisfaction with the food options present at the café.
Kristopher Rhoads, a Parkland criminal justice student, said last year: “My thoughts are that Parkland pretty much offers snacks, or ‘gap’ food, until you can go get yourself some food.”
One suggestion from students surveyed this year was for the cafeteria to bring in fast food vendors from outside, like Jimmy Johns or McDonalds to serve food alongside Chartwells. Another idea was for the café to start issuing coupons or to lower their prices to accommodate the college student’s oft-stretched budget.
Students also suggested that the cafeteria strive to include more healthy foods, like cereals, on their menu. That said, it does already serve options like yogurt parfaits, flour tortilla wraps, and submarine sandwiches, but in October of the year past as well students claimed it was “not enough.”
Regardless, the Terrace Food Court is an option for Parkland-goers who opt for the convenience of not leaving campus for their meals. The Terrace Food Court is open Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m.–5 p.m. and Friday 7:30 a.m.–2 p.m. Additional information on the café can be found at dineoncampus.com/parkland/.