As I’m sure we are all aware, the dining halls are a subject of much discussion and critique among students. I have heard Sodexo referred to as both a pox upon the student body (by a student), and quality, tasty food (by a tour guide). Because we all eat at the dining halls so often, largely due to the irritatingly rigid nature of the meal plans, especially for freshmen and sophomores, every student has their own opinions about Sodexo. My personal hypothesis is that the food starts off all right at the beginning of each semester, but drops noticeably in quality as the year goes on.
One of the most common criticisms regarding the cafeterias is that they don’t provide enough options for vegetarian and vegan diners. Even with the addition of the Mosaic Bowls in the Caf, students don’t feel like their dietary preferences and needs are being met.
“Frequently the only vegetarian options are sad and cold and low in protein, especially during weekends and especially at the Caf.” Catherine Green ’20 said. “And I have eaten a ridiculous amount of chickpeas since I came to William and Mary, because it’s the only form of protein we have.”
A meal without hot food isn’t a meal at all, and in that regard, vegetarians usually only have one option at the Caf and Sadler. In addition, the so-called “Meatless Monday” meals are rarely a big hit with students. Some of the workers at the Caf, however, do not agree with students’ complaints. When I asked Caf workers whether or not the dining halls do enough for vegetarians, the answer was always yes.
“The Caf has a lot of strictly vegetarian areas. Even my section [the wrap and sandwich section] does. I prepare veggie wraps every day, in addition to all the other options,” Melissa, a chef at the Caf, said.
The cafeteria workers do so much for the students, and I think it’s unfortunate that their efforts can’t be appreciated by the full student body because the food suppliers don’t offer more meat-free options.
Of course, students evaluate the dining halls on additional criteria.
“I feel like there should be more options between peak dining hours, because when I go at certain times there’s just nothing there,” Seth Fiderer ’20 said. “Also I really miss the stir fry that used to be at Sadler.”
I couldn’t agree more with both points. It’s irritating to swipe into the dining halls for lunch at 3 p.m. every day and be faced with three options — a burger, fries or a burger and fries. I think a meal swipe during the off-hours should count for half of a primetime meal swipe. Also, Sadler’s Mongolian stir fry was by far the best food served at any of the cafeterias, so I’m not sure why it was removed.
The dining halls at William and Mary have a lot of issues. They offer very few palatable and hot options for vegetarians, significantly drop in variety from the hours of 2-5 and often remove the best food options (please bring back the lucky charms, Sodexo). And sure, it would be nice if the dining hall bathrooms had toilet paper that wasn’t 1/10 ply and made out of sandpaper, but few buildings on campus do. But the saving grace of William and Mary’s dining halls is undeniably the superb employees who imbue each dining hall with a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Many of them wake up as early as 4 a.m., yet are always as genuinely enthusiastic as possible. The workers make sure that the 100 percent recyclable napkins are always stocked at each table, and every night all of the uneaten food is composted. I think the William and Mary student body would have revolted against Sodexo long ago had it not been for the sunny smiles and kindness of the cafeteria staff.
Email Robin Bradley at firstname.lastname@example.org.