By Olivia Bousquet
Hungry, hungry students are seeking off-campus food services to supplement for the limited dining options available at SUNY Plattsburgh. Throughout a student’s busy weekday schedule, there are dining options available at Clinton Dining Hall, Tim Hortons, Einstein Bros. Bagels and Sundowner. Students can shop at Campus Express for snacks, frozen meals and miscellaneous items. Yet, hours have been reduced and weekend options are more limited due to COVID-19 and decreased residents on campus.
Clinton Dining Hall can be expensive for students without the freshman “Anytime Dining” meal plan, a plan where students have unlimited meal swipes and limited retail swipes in the dining halls. Options like Scoops, Subway, Little Al’s and Griddles have been closed permanently. However, Kent Cafe will be opening in October, where students can get pizza and sandwiches.
“I cried for Subway, and I just recently found out they’re closed. It’s heartbreaking,” sophomore Lindsey Braunfotel said. “It was the only thing I ate and it was so good for the weekends.”
As an education major with all in-person classes, Braunfotel finds little time to grab a meal due to long lines, and ends up going to class hungry instead. She has been eating more off-campus food after the limited campus options made her feel “so unhealthy,” and because lunch opportunities are barely available during the weekends.
“Even when going to get soda, you have to wait in a 10-minute line and you’re right up each other’s backs, so you can’t even breathe,” said Braunfotel, about the congestion of students in Clinton Dining hall.
With fewer dining options to choose from, students all congregate in the same places, which leaves little space to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
“My only worry is that I’m not going to use all of my dining dollars or meals,” junior Anne-Mae Smith said. “Because I can make my own stuff, and that would be better than the limited options.”
The nursing major prefers getting in and out of dining areas quickly, but that was not the case with her one and only visit to Clinton Dining hall earlier this semester. Smith eats on-campus for dinner only at the Sundowner. The Sundowner is open 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. during the week and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the weekends. The Late Night options are from 8 p.m. to midnight on Sunday to Thursday and 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
“I haven’t been eating on-campus too much,” Smith said. “I usually just have my salads, so I keep stuff in my fridge and make my own food.”
Smith used to go to Clinton Dining’s salad bar for a quick meal, however, that food service is no longer available to students. Clinton Dining is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the weekdays, and doesn’t open until 9 a.m. on the weekends.
“I think that because [SUNY Plattsburgh] took so much away, I haven’t really been eating on-campus,” sophomore Elizabeth Kocienda said. “If I do ever decide to eat on-campus, I only go to Einstein’s or Halal Shack in Downer.”
Kocienda avoids Clinton Dining due to the lack of diverse food options, especially after the updated limitations from COVID-19, such as no self-service or salad bar. The dining halls and Sundower’s menu doesn’t vary often, which is redundant for students throughout the semester. Most of these options are deep-fried, and not the healthiest for young bodies. According to Options for Youths, a non-profit public charter school in California, research shows that well-nourished students get better grades and remember more information when eating healthy meals.
“I know a lot of what’s happening with the school is outside of the College Auxiliary Service staff’s hands, so I know they’re trying to do their best too,” Kocienda said. “Especially with Al’s — that’s been a hard hit on them not being around, so I know some of them miss it just as much as us.”
Kocienda was a frequent customer at Lil Al’s last year due to it being a healthier food option. She enjoyed getting sandwiches and wraps in between classes during the week. The regular workers were personable and Kocienda saw their passion for their job was because of the students, which made her visits better.
The hardworking staff may be pleasant to chat with, but the food isn’t always pleasant to eat.
“I bought a prepackaged yogurt from the Sundowner, and when I opened it there was a moldy strawberry inside,” SUNY Plattsburgh junior Charlie Bagby said. “I checked the expiration date and what they had done was put a new expiration date over the old one.”
Regardless of healthy or unhealthy foods, students pay for expensive meal plans to eat good food. At least, not expired foods. Students do not have time to battle the school for fresh food between their classes, homework, extracurricular activities and work. COVID-19 is no excuse to have poor quality in food products.
Healthy foods on-campus are more expensive and more limited than the cheaper unhealthy foods, like chicken tenders, pizza and pasta. Bagby feels forced to eat unhealthy options in order to be cost conscious. To save money on their meal plans, students will choose a cheaper option, like a burger and fries over a $7 small salad, to have more dining dollars to spend throughout the semester. Bagby eats off-campus more than before, due to the lack of options for students on the weekends without the Anytime Dining plan.
Campus was never perfect with supplying healthy options for students, but there were more options to eat better. Scoops offered amazing fruit smoothies, and had vegan options with plant-based protein. Clinton Dining’s large salad bar provided a healthy and filling meal option, which is a positive change to the typically greasy food choices.
Students losing those healthy options is upsetting.
Eating is a necessity to life. Students need to eat healthy meals to continue working effectively throughout the semester. If students are living on-campus, they should not feel the need to find food elsewhere to make-up for the lack of options. Meal plan prices have not been lowered for students in spite of the limited dining options and reduced hours.
So, it’s no wonder students probably are drinking more, when they have nothing to eat to keep them satisfied.