Depending on one’s route to school, most commuters pass a hundred options for food before they reach campus. Once they arrive, the options continue, with the Breezeway, the Eagle’s Nest and, of course, Sodexho’s cafeteria all vying for their dollars.
So how do commuters sustain themselves? Is off-campus living any healthier or cheaper than a meal plan augmented by smoothies from Jammin’ Java?
According to Sean Kays, a married senior who has never lived on campus, he spends $30 a week on food and brings in the leftovers for lunch. Compared to Eastern’s full meal plan, which weighs in at a weekly $119, his is a hefty savings.
“Even if they had cheap food like rice and beans, I still wouldn’t buy it,” Kays said. “It’s like buying bottled water. It’s like eating out for every meal.”
Kays lives in a house with his wife and four other students or recent Eastern graduates, all of whom share meals and pay about the same price for food. Although he has a weakness for Chinese food, Kays insists on baking his own bread and bagels, roasting his own coffee and brewing his own beer.
“If you can just make rice at home in 20 minutes, why bother coming to school and paying for food?” Kays said. “The meal is more wholesome when it’s coming from your own hands, when you’ve spent time making it.”
Commuters do have meal plan options, but the average price of an on-campus meal is $6.50 for a non-resident. After doing the math, are there any perks to swiping a card and instantly receiving a plate of hot food?
According to Anthony Holness, “instant” is about all you get.
“You can just run upstairs and get some food,” Holness said. But after moving off campus to Pennswood, Holness started shopping at Whole Foods.
“I had a commuter meal plan last semester but it wasn’t worth it,” he said. “I’m definitely eating healthier.”
Many commuters insist that buying and preparing their own food is their best option.
“It’s healthier, it’s cheaper,” said Mark Porter, a sophomore who transferred to Eastern after a few years off. “I like to buy a lot of organic food, which is not probable on campus. It makes the world a better place.”
And for some, preparing their own food is just simpler. “I didn’t want to go through the paperwork,” junior Arek Torosian said. “It’s just easier to bring my own food. It’s only on days when I have night classes that I actually buy something.”