Let them eat cake, or anything off campus

ASU dining should go back to encouraging students to eat locally

Many students may fall into a rut of eating at a campus dining hall for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but if they wander off campus, they will find a whole better world.

ASU dining can enable students to be more socially embedded by letting them explore the local food scene like the old Sun Dollars did.

See Counterpoint: ASU dining could improve by implementing more vegetarian and vegan options.

Even if students enjoy Sun Devil dining, they may get sick of eating in the same place repeatedly.

“The one and only dining hall on the Downtown Campus is really nice and did a good job of offering a variety of options that would appeal to many different tastes, but I found myself feeling sick most of the time I ate there,” said public relations student Austin Miller.

As one of the most common complaints heard around campus, a lack of food options has been brought up time and time again in these pages, at President Crow forums and even in student government elections.

However, fixing the issue is not as simple as merely inviting a local business on campus.

ASU outsources its dining services to Aramark, which controls all food that is on the physical campuses.

So if you see a new Chick-fil-A on campus, it probably isn’t a small business owner that got to rent out some of our space. More likely than not, it’s Aramark operating a franchise of a national business.

This type of outsourcing isn’t new to ASU. For 52 years, the company Sodexo was ASU’s food partner.

In 2007, ASU bid out the contract, which Aramark won resoundingly. That original contract of 10 years was extended in 2011 to last until 2024.

This means that your options for meal swipes will remain relatively unchanged for the next seven years.

Dining hall meal swipes are only one part of the ASU dining experience.

The other is “flexible” credit provided in the Maroon & Gold dollars we have today.

However, its predecessor, the Sun Dollar, was far more helpful to students as that currency could be used off campus.

Since the Sun Dollar phased out five years ago, convincing the few on-campus businesses not owned by Aramark to accept M&G and its associated fees has proven to be very difficult despite the efforts of many students.

Meanwhile, our competitors at the school down south proudly advertise “TAKE IT OFF CAMPUS!” on the front page of their Cat Cash website.

This results in harmful impacts to students and the communities that surround us.

Instead of being socially embedded, the ASU dining service as it stands creates a massive moat around the campus in which students are rewarded for using the money they invested in meal plans only within Aramark’s stores and not encouraged to explore their new home cities.

This damages local businesses enticed to settle near college campuses based on the heavy advertising from universities and cities that a college campus means life and energy for the streets.

In a time where the commitment of ASU to its communities has been openly questioned by local community members and even state legislators suggesting students have no right to vote in the area where they go to college, it is imperative that ASU encourage more engagement with its surroundings.

And perhaps best of all, it is a delicious experience to eat something other than the Aramark classics.

“Luckily, Downtown Phoenix is a city built for foodies," Miller said. "There were plenty of options in the area that I could walk to to get more wholesome meals that settled better in my stomach - all the while supporting local businesses.”

Reach the columnist at raboyd@asu.edu or follow @RyanAndrewBoyd on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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