When walking into meal hall a year ago for my first campus tour, I was amazed by the large, open space, the abundance of food, and the concept of “My Pantry.” The description of fresh, full salad bars, healthy sandwich stations and the idea that I could cook my own food was one of the main attractions of Acadia.
After spending my first night on campus, I was looking forward to waking up to a fresh, healthy, simple breakfast of plain yogurt and muesli, maybe some fruit and a glass of pure orange juice. To my horror I was faced with Mystery Meat, French toasted waffles, potatoes, sausages, rubber eggs, yogurt with more sugar than Ben and Jerry’s, and orange juice that came out as a bright, orange substance immersed in water. And as I searched for muesli, I instead discovered Lucky Charms and Cheerio’s; not a healthy oat in sight. Horrified, I went into town to buy breakfast supplies for my room and have not been back for breakfast since.
Dinner was much of the same, with dry old carrot sticks, dying celery and creamy fat and sugar-rich salad dressings. Pizza, fries, burgers, perogies, ice cream, cookies and brownies were plentiful. Settling for lettuce, cucumbers, and chickpeas, I ate my disappointing dinner with looks of disdain and confusion from other students, who were relishing the opportunity to stuff their bodies with fat and sugar.
Meal hall isn’t a completely rotten institution – it employs the lovely idea of sourcing local foods and supporting local farms, and provides ample vegetarian options. It does its best to please a very large population of students, which is hard considering the diversity this beautiful campus provides. Reducing myself to the lowest meal plan available, (only 5 days a week), I am still playing $4000 just to eat chickpeas and lettuce since students cannot cancel their meal hall subscription while living on campus. This waste of money means I am unable to buy myself the healthy, fresh food I want unless I move off campus in my first term.
There are many simple things that could significantly improve meal hall. A station of just “plain food” with the same set-up as a salad bar is one option. Providing plain oven roasted chicken breast with no flavourings, plain brown rice, plain roasted vegetables at night, and plain yogurt. Include some real juices, muesli and seeded breads such as rye, with low fat spreads in the morning. Simply providing real meats daily, not the heavily processed meats found in the sandwich bar and simpler, plain foods year-round would improve meal hall significantly. Then, students could at least have the choice of making their own meals without consuming the additional fat and sugar.
So good-bye, Wheelock. The risk of never becoming a meal hall crush is one I’m willing to take if it means I can avoid the next mac and cheese day.