The Statesman recently conducted a survey of graduating seniors and asked them to rate different aspects of the Stony Brook experience. The results seemed to range from neutral to positive, with only two aspects receiving negative reviews. I do not think anyone was surprised to learn that the food here was one of the two.
Let’s face it, the food here is overpriced and rather mediocre. If you have experienced food at another college before, you might know how far away Stony Brook food is from how good it can be.
So, how can we fix it?
It might be easier than you think. Some of you might know that all of Campus Dining is contracted out through one single entity. That entity is Lackmann Culinary Services, a large food-service provider with 1,300 employees and a website that still touts the opening of a California Pizza Kitchen at Stony Brook. So if we want to make a big change to the food at Stony Brook, it is as simple as firing the single provider that has been, by and large, a big disappointment.
The shortcomings of Lackmann food are obvious at Stony Brook. If you are a food provider, you should be providing high quality food. If you cannot do that, you should be providing cheap food. If you cannot do that, you should at least make sure there’s good-sized portions. Yet, Stony Brook students are left paying fourteen dollars for a charred six-ounce steak.
How do we replace Lackmann?
The simple solution is to find a better provider that can do at least one of those three things I listed above. Binghamton University’s provider, Sodexo, may not have better-quality food.
However, by subsidizing food with a higher service fee, prices are so low that you are free to have as much food as you want. The average Stony Brook student would probably have their mind blown by the fact that a slice of pizza costs about fifty cents at Binghamton, while a burger costs $1.50. And that is still from a food contractor.
If you look at the top-rated campus food services, you see that nearly all of them are run by the schools. Virginia Tech, which has the top-rated food according to the Princeton Review, has a campus-run dining service that also subcontracts out spots for chain restaurants like Chik Fil A and Qdoba. Cornell University, ranked third, also has a school-run dining service, and it shows.
It is simple to understand why school-run food services thoroughly outclass contractors. When a contractor is in charge of dining, there is a monopoly and the desire to provide food is based on profit. Meanwhile, a school-run dining service is put in place simply to provide food. Their goal is to maximize either value, quality or quantity. A contractor has a fourth thing to maximize—profit.
Capitalism only works when there are effective ways to control monopolies, and with campus dining, that can be difficult. If we have to have one single provider for our food on campus, we should focus on transitioning it into an entity that is not designed to profit of our student’s silly desire to nourish themselves.
Luckily, the students can do something about this. Lackmann’s contract runs out at the end of this semester. Take this opportunity to voice your opinion on this matter.