Good food should matter on campus

McDonald’s, home of the iconic golden arches, which was once situated across from the Academic and Student Recreation Center and Bike Hub, had long been a staple for many Portland State University students.

In light of the recent closure of the Southwest 6th Avenue anchor, I have been pondering the dining choices offered by Portland State that lead students to frequenting dozens of food establishments on and around campus on a daily basis.

I realize that fast food is a mainstay of the college freshman. I get it. You’re away from home with the freedom to do whatever you want for the first time. Grabbing fries and burgers with a group of friends won’t break the bank. Perfect!

But with no parents around to whip up comforting home cooking, nourishing and healthy options for dorm dwelling students tend to be limited. While it’s true that a good amount of PSU students don’t live on campus and have the opportunity to cook healthy meals at home, what are the actual food options when it comes to eating in the dining hall?

College students attending four-year universities aren’t generally rich. However, many living in student housing eat out daily, despite their purchased meal plans that would pay for most of their sustenance. Portland is a veritable wonderland of eclectic culinary establishments: Anyone lucky enough to attend school here should appreciate the bounty this city has to offer. However, shouldn’t the food you (or your parents) pay for in meal plans feature the best options?

PSU’s food service provider, Aramark, is contracted to supply food for all dining halls and catering events on campus—unless the event can prove to be culturally significant enough to warrant specialized catering. They are a huge conglomerate that historically stocks ingredients from Sysco, another huge conglomerate. Neither of these companies have business practices that are aligned with the the sustainable nature of PSU or Portland as a whole.

This results in a smaller percentage of local and organic ingredients than we should be using. In 2014, 39 percent of food purchases for PSU were local and 4 percent were organic. There are very few alternatives to high-starch, high-sugar diets, and limited diversity in the way these ingredients are prepared.

Last year, a new amendment was developed by the Campus Sustainability Office to increase the total local and third-party certified food expenditures by 5 percent annually based on purchases made in 2014, which I suppose is something rather than nothing. Besides the salad bar in Viking Court, I have difficulty finding food offered by the university that I actually want to and should be eating.

The University of Oregon is a perfect example of how campus dining can be exceptional: They have partnered with over 25 local farms to provide much of the seasonal produce in their dining venues and for university catering. They mainly use local and organic ingredients to prepare recipes from scratch. PSU could easily follow this lead instead of offering generic Chinese food and greasy burgers.

I guess I should be glad we have so many other eating options and especially glad that I don’t live in a dorm.

Don’t worry freshman, you won’t be an undergrad forever.