Emory’s administration prides itself on providing one of the most sustainable university dining experiences in the nation. With about 40 percent of its food locally sourced, the University is taking bold steps to minimize its environmental impact. However, these efforts too often come at a cost to students and their families in the form of expensive food options.
Emory should add more affordable food options to its existing offerings. The University has, for example, three different Kaldi’s Coffee locations whose free-trade practices contribute to exorbitant pricing. On campus, Kaldi’s has the longest hours, giving students who want to eat a full late-night meal few other options. While we recognize the value of a fair-trade coffee and upscale-food option on campus, there should be more affordable options on campus with better hours.
At Emory, the Office of Student Success Programs and Services (OSSPS) is the main source of support for students experiencing food insecurity. Since 2015, OSSPS has combated food insecurity on campus by allowing students to donate meal plan guest swipes to students in need, and through the Eagle Food Co-op at Bread Coffeehouse and emergency meal vouchers. The food pantry at Bread Coffeehouse served at least 63 individual students in the 2017-18 school year, helping food-insecure undergraduate and graduate students. However, while occasional free meals are a good stopgap measure, they are neither a consistent nor a sustainable way to provide food. OSSPS’ programs should be better publicized and bolstered by a broader program to decrease food insecurity on campus.
OSSPS also aims to help students in the long term by teaching them budgeting skills, advising them on where to get food and pointing them to government resources such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. While OSSPS teaches fundamental life skills and provides external resources, this is not a good enough or broad enough solution; even low-income students should not have to resort to extreme budgeting in order to eat on campus.
Recent on-campus chalkings, such as “No $$$ for food insecurity” criticizing the University’s decision to build administrative office space in Convocation Hall, are further evidence of students’ needs, especially near the end of the semester when bank accounts begin to run dry. Students must pay $7 for a cereal box and $5 for a six-pack of eggs at Cox Convenience Corner. Students can shuttle to grocery stores like Publix, but scheduling trips to those stores are inconvenient. Shuttles run too infrequently and many students do not have unlimited access to a full kitchen.
For students working long hours on tight budgets, these options are unacceptable. While we recognize the prices at Cox Convenience are higher because they are based on ease of access, not every student can afford the luxury of convenience.
Sustainability should not come at the cost of students’ financial security, and Emory students should not be expected to shoulder the burden of the University’s sustainability initiatives. Simply put, the University’s sustainability goals are out of touch with the needs of low-income students. If Emory ranks highly for financial diversity, its resources and food affordability must reflect that fact.
Emory should work to decrease the cost of eating on campus, paying the difference if necessary, to make campus dining more affordable for students while maintaining its sustainable practices. Actions such as subsidizing on-campus vendors and working with local businesses in Emory Point and Emory Village to accept Dooley Dollars would help low-income students afford food without sacrificing sustainability.
Though many Emory students enjoy Kaldi’s, they would be better served by a cheaper late-night option than by a fourth Kaldi’s in the Emory Student Center. Emory must work harder to ensure that it does not throw low-income students under the bus in pursuit of sustainability.
The Editorial Board is composed of Zach Ball, Jacob Busch, Ryan Fan, Andrew Kliewer, Madeline Lutwyche, Boris Niyonzima, Omar Obregon-Cuebas, Shreya Pabbaraju, Madison Stephens and Kimia Tabatabaei.