As most returning students are now aware, Bon Appetit Catering and Lewis & Clark College have changed the menus and meal service hours for the 2017-18 year. Notably, the Fields Dining Hall (the Bon) hours have been extended, Maggie’s now serves “global bowls,” and the Trail Room is closed for dinner. For first-years who have never known any different: long ago, lo those four months ago, the beloved Trail Room was open for dinner. In addition, the Trail Room, affectionately referred to as the “troom,” used to serve sandwiches, grilled cheese, quesadillas and more, in addition to the remaining fare of burgers, pizza, soup and salad (and the new noodles and BBQ options). It was a veritable cornucopia of comfort food.
Most of these changes are innocuous or even beneficial to student life, especially the extended Bon hours. However, the elimination of the Trail Room as a dinner option is a severe misstep on the part of both Bon Appetit and the college. While not as healthy or as expansive in size as the Bon, the Trail Room served as the only legitimate dinner option for student athletes and artists, among others. Sports practices and rehearsals often begin in the late afternoon, before dinner is on anyone’s mind, and end late in the evening once the Bon is closed. For example, while working on the spring Mainstage show last semester, I found myself dining in the Trail Room on a regular basis because rehearsal ended late. The place was always bustling with students chatting over burgers with teammates and friends, or getting a head-start on homework while chowing down on a piece of pizza.
Taking the Trail Room away from these students impedes their ability to find an adequate dinner on campus in the evening. For athletes in particular, who burn hundreds of calories during practice, having access to substantial food is imperative to their health. The only other options for late-night dinner are Maggie’s global bowls — which, while tasty, aren’t as filling as Trail Room dinners — or Maggie’s sandwiches — which are not guaranteed to even be in stock in the late evening — and frozen dinners. Students purchase meal plans with the belief that they will actually be able to use their swipes on a regular basis. Taking away Trail Room dinners wastes these students’ money, unless they want to use a swipe for a sandwich and chips or a global bowl. This severely limits students’ choices about what they eat for dinner. Moreover, it is unrealistic to put the burden of feeding dinner to so many students on Maggie’s. Since the Bon has already extended its hours, why doesn’t it just push closing time to 10 p.m.?
There are a few possible answers to that question, but the one with the most merit is simple. The budget is tight this year, seeing as the freshman class is under-enrolled. That combined with the fact that minimum wage in Oregon has gone up, it may have become too difficult to keep enough students and staff employed to keep both Maggie’s and the Trail Room open late. That is a legitimate problem that I hope the school can ameliorate over the next year. However, cutting evening food service is not the answer to the problem. Instead, it sends the message to students, especially athletes and artists, that the school isn’t paying attention to their needs.