By: Tamanna T., Staff Writer
SFU’s Dining Hall is an option most consider when living in Residence, or as an emergency when nothing else is open on the Burnaby campus. I’ve had both of these experiences, and while the Dining Hall offers a variety of foods, the flavours are monotonous and don’t justify the cost.
It’s important to note a large percentage of students living in SFU Residence are international students, myself included. The Dining Hall keeps that in mind and promises to offer a “world-class” dining experience. Their menu consists of many dishes from all across the world, such as sushi, pad thai, palak paneer, different types of pastas, and much more. However, most of the food tastes almost identical — it’s as if they use the same base sauce for all of their dishes but simply tag them with different names.
Not only that but, apart from salads, there aren’t many healthy options. Vegetarian and vegan students are further limited, and I’ve heard complaints from friends who often have trouble finding different things to eat.
The food isn’t necessarily bad, but for the price of the meal plan, it certainly isn’t worth it either. Before COVID-19, the Dining Hall was more than a place to sit and eat, it was also a place to connect with friends, discuss group projects, and create a sense of community among students. To some extent, this helped justify the price charged for the food as it included the experience of being in the Residence community. However, when the Dining Hall closed its indoor seating, the prices did not see any decrease.
The current price for a 7-day meal plan is $2,330 for 3.5 months, and students need to pay extra for the meal plan during vacations. That brings the cost to around $22.20 a day for food that is consistently underwhelming. When compared to the $7.50 average daily grocery bill among Vancouver residents, this is a dramatic markup — even accounting for the time spent cooking.
Moreover, excluding between-semester breaks from meal plans has an impact on international students who live in Residence and do not go home. Most buildings do not have full kitchens, so many are left with no option other than to subscribe to the expensive meal-plan in the winter break. Not all international students come from well-off families, and to assume that they can easily pay $432 to get take out for 2–3 weeks isn’t fair for students.
I am aware that the chefs and cooks in the Dining Hall do their best to prepare meals according to a prescribed menu, so it is high time the menu gets a thorough revision. Students are currently not getting full value for the money they spend. Considering various dietary restrictions and class background is an integral part of offering food that is inclusive to all students, and the Dining Hall has their work cut out for them if they want to truly achieve this.