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Cafeteria blues

Inflexible dining hours are a setback for some student schedules. (Photo: Bryn Karcha)

In a university that is rightly and increasingly more concerned with accessibility, Dalhousie is missing an issue literally in the middle of residence—its evening dining hall hours. The cafeteria makes a great effort to prepare a broad range of foods and to work with students who have dietary needs. Sadly, it takes no consideration of students in night classes or those travelling from other campuses when it closes the Howe and Risley dining halls at 6:45 p.m.

Residence is a place of transition where students are encouraged to make good life choices and establish healthy habits. It’s difficult to make health food choices when I’m hungry again after having eaten at 5:30 p.m. and the only food available is vending machine junk food and the convenience store across the street. It seems that the Food Services department has lost sight of its purpose: to feed the students of residence. The food schedule should be worked around the schedules of students, not the other way around. I don’t know how many times I’ve had friends tell me they had to eat at 4:30 p.m. because they had to get to a night class. This is absurd. The cafeteria’s purpose is to feed students in an accessible way.

Shirreff dining hall is open until 8:00 p.m., perhaps because it is near the Dalplex and Wickwire Field, where athletes might have evening training. What does this tell Howe and Risley students who have evening classes during meal times? Could we be putting athletics before academics?

Residence is meant to become a community, a new home for students. I don’t know about you, but food is a big part of home for me.  While contracting out food management is an efficient way to fulfil services, it can sometimes be too efficient. As first year student Carolina Chang said, “It feels like it’s efficient for them, but not effective for us.”

I don’t have any major beefs, as it were, with the food or the staff in the cafeteria. I think the selection and quality is quite good considering the volume (there are over 700 students in Howe) and the staff are wonderful. But the hours don’t match the quality of the service. The university goes to great lengths to make residence a good experience, from the range of food to the residence attendants, front desk staff and housekeeping. However, it’s amazing that for those with night classes, the answer to the most basic hospitality question—will there be food?—is no.

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