Isabelle Fortiz ’24 has plans to major in kinesiology with a minor in psychology. She is currently the head coach of the College’s club swim team, a violinist in the W&M Symphony Orchestra and a member of the Kinesiology and Health Sciences Club. Email Isabelle at email@example.com.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.
What is known as “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” to many people around the world is actually considered one of the most dreaded times for College of William and Mary students to eat at a dining hall. With the semester coming to a close, this signals the beginning of reduced food options and the repetition of the minimal options that are provided. In a 2016 story published under the College’s online News and Media section, they boasted that the school ranked 17th nationally on BestColleges.com’s review on top dining halls. In contrast to this, Niche.com’s “2022 Best College Food in America” list gave the College’s campus food score a solid C- and listed it halfway through page 52 of 56 on their website. The College’s ranking was too poor to even earn a number placement among almost 1,400 schools and was unbelievably far past the top 17. It’s sad to see that such a prestigious and renowned institution can score an overall grade of A+ but still manages a low C- rating in not only campus food but dorms as well, but that’s a problem for another time.
Throughout the semester, all three dining halls are open from breakfast to dinnertime, Monday through Thursday. However, from Friday afternoon through Sunday, Marketplace is closed, offering only mobile orders limiting the convenience and availability of fresh food options for the freshman Outer Limits community. According to Google Maps, the walk to Sadler from the closest Outer Limits dorm, Willis, is a total of eight minutes long, which makes it the longest distance to the closest dining hall from any on-campus dorm exceeding the time it takes to get to Caf from GGV or Sadler from Lemon and Monroe. This doesn’t even take into consideration the 10-minute walk to Sadler from Brown Hall and the 11-minute haul from Reves or Hunt Hall (my freshman dorm — shoutout to Hunt 2nd!). I’ve witnessed firsthand how Marketplace’s limited hours have caused detrimental effects on freshmen and are carried on throughout their college careers, like eating little snacks in place of a meal or nothing at all rather than risk walking all the way to Sadler or Caf to face the reality of there being nothing to eat. These actions can lead to disordered eating habits and unhealthy behaviors that can reduce one’s overall health and quality of life due to nutrient deficiencies and a lack of energy.
The College’s Dining Services promotes an app called Bite by Sodexo, which is helpful when looking at upcoming menus before choosing where to eat. However, after about a month into the semester, we realized that the app was not showing accurate menus for any of the dining locations. It was really disappointing to go to Sadler for taco night only to find yet another variation of (uncooked) jerk chicken, soggy cinnamon- and garlic-coated vegetables and crunchy rice. (This is not a rare occurrence either: poultry is a prime source of complete protein, so it’s always upsetting when I cut open my chicken to see that it is still raw. This is unacceptable and a completely separate issue.) The menus located on-screen in Sadler have not been updated regularly either, and we are apparently on day four of London broil for dinner. On top of that, the lack of accurate signage in regard to dietary restrictions and food allergies is appalling. I have heard countless times from not only my peers but also passersby about how Marketplace served their vegetarian friend a pepperoni calzone when they ordered cheese or that Caf mislabeled a station as gluten-free and now their friend is painfully waiting for their small intestine to heal. It is a shame that Sadler keeps a poster up claiming that we have an A+ rating for vegan diets as this is wildly inaccurate. Furthermore, there are simply not enough protein options, especially for people that consume plant-based diets.This is a problem that should not and cannot continue. We are in urgent need of a guideline revision and training for food handling and the process of posting signage and information.
The College requires that students living on campus buy a meal plan while offering an impractical meal plan petition claiming, “William & Mary Dining Services are able to accommodate students with allergies to gluten, wheat, soy, shellfish, dairy, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts as well as vegetarian and vegan dietary restrictions, so citing these dietary restrictions are not typically approved as a reason to be released from the meal plan,” yet they incredibly fail to make fair modifications and adjustments for such a large proportion of their students’ dietary needs (not to mention how they take pride in serving Halal-certified meat only at Caf, Monday through Friday.… Don’t Muslim students still eat on the weekends?).
Two of the most popular meal plans bought by students are Block 175 (175 swipes per semester) and Gold 19 (19 swipes per week), which cost approximately $5200 per year. This means that depending on what plan is used, each meal is valued at $12.70 per swipe on Block 175 and $8.40 per swipe on Gold 19 when subtracting the Dining Dollars allocated to each meal plan. At Marketplace, a swipe is priced at $8.00, meaning you lose up to $5 per meal there, and maybe even more for more limited meal plan options. So where is the money going? Is this for the reopening of a Jamba Juice smoothie place in the Rec Center or for funding Chancellor’s Bistro? Perhaps this is to bring back the Wholly Habaneros and 1693 BBQ food trucks? Maybe it is to reinstall The Crust, Pita Pit, and Mooyah for Tribe Square. Either way, for a school that costs over $40k per year for in-state students and over $60k per year for out-of-state students to attend, we surely can do better than a food servicing company that caters to hospitals and facilitates prisons in other countries.
To conclude this piece, I invite anyone from the Dining Services Team or College administration, including the Board of Visitors, to join me for a meal at a dining hall, and don’t worry, you can leave your lunchbox at home.