Colleges used to exist to feed student’s minds.
Not so much anymore. Sadly, examples of that truism are legion. And now we can add one more: college students across the fruited plain are making highly specific and exceedingly picky demands as regards their food choices. The University of Texas-Austin hired a second campus dietician for the current semester, because the first, Lindsay Wilson, “was overwhelmed with requests to craft personalized menus for picky eaters, to debunk urban myths about the contents of food the school serves and to recommend healthier lifestyle choices,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Ms. Wilson remarked: “I have had a little pushback from some very feisty vegans.”
The University of Houston spent thousands of dollars just to build two hydroponic grow towers to cultivate cilantro and oregano indoors, sans soil. Not to be outdone, UCLA installed aeroponic grow towers on the roof of the school’s Bruin Plate dining hall to grow plants with just mist. “Thyme, butter lettuce and microgreens are flourishing” there states the Journal. Aristotle must be proud.
The student’s demands have put enormous pressure on school chefs and dining halls. But Hannah Logan, a senior at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, opines: “If you’re not eating good things, how do they expect your brain to grow?”
A freshman at the University of Colorado-Boulder, an aspiring neuroscientist, stated: “For me to see myself going to a school, I also had to see myself being able to eat there. I see a huge correlation between what I eat and how I think.” Apparently lending validity to this statement, a 2016 survey of over 1,200 UMass-Amherst scholars revealed that 70% said the quality of the school’s food was an important factor in their decision to attend the institution. Which is why the school upped its spending on local and sustainably grown foods to $4.9 million through June of this year, an 81% increase over 2016.
Yale has a 1-acre hybrid farm where students thresh wheat and grind grain. Flour from the farm is baked into pizzas served at weekly food symposiums cleverly called “Knead 2 Know.” Higher learning at its finest! Jeremy Oldfield, Yale’s manager of field academics, avers: “It gives our pizzas certain nutty and incredibly light grain notes that are so special.” Everyone knows how healthy pizzas are!
“Nutty and incredibly light” is, in fact, an apt description of the academic regimen on campuses these days.
Some say the genesis of the rapidly changing climate regarding campus cuisine was the “free-trade coffee movement” in which Virginia Tech students demanded more free-trade coffee in 2008. In response, dining-services head Ted Faulkner promptly flew to Nicaragua, where he picked beans at an organic, “bird-friendly” coffee estate. That estate now supplies the school. Since then, Virginia Tech has added a churrascaria (?), a gelateria (?), and a sushi bar, among other dining options. “You’ve got to keep pace with their expectations,” exclaimed Faulkner.
Faulkner said that, during a student dining committee meeting this past spring, a student complained that the school’s pancake syrup was too bland. The dining staff then summoned the student- and other student leaders- to a kitchen to sample French toast sticks…and a lineup of 13 different syrups from which to choose. They were asked to rank the syrups. The winner was sweet and flavorful, with a “good dipping and pouring consistency,” proclaimed the student who lodged the shocking complaint against the formerly utterly unacceptably bland pancake syrup. Here, here! There should be strict federal guidelines regulating the dipping and pouring consistency of school’s syrups.
Has anyone stopped to think that maybe dealing with the horrors of “bland pancake syrup” isn’t the most effective way to prepare kids for the rigors and “unfairness” of the real world they’ll enter after college?
As many know, Ivy League schools have long held a reputation for having the best cilantro, while it has traditionally been hard to beat a Pac Ten school for tofu-inspired dishes. And LSU has attracted many of its students because of its splendid Duck a l’ Orange. So, it is no longer enough to have, say, a great journalism program, or a top-shelf medical college anymore, experts state. In fact, academics in general are widely considered outré by millennials- and their professors. Similarly, possessing great sports teams won’t do the trick in today’s campus climate. It is no longer even acceptable for an institution to simply have excellent opportunities and outlets for social justice warriors (SJW), even if the school has the most and best equipped safe spaces. Haute- and healthy- Cuisine is the order of the day. If, say, Notre Dame wants to keep abreast of Stanford in recruiting the best and the brightest- or the biggest and the fastest for that matter- it now must spend millions of dollars annually to upgrade its food service. The days of bag lunches or Salisbury steak are long gone, as are the days when fast food restaurants and “greasy spoons” would dominate campus perimeters.
Cicero can’t hold a candle to cilantro any longer. Rhetoric is no match for rhubarb. Locally-sourced, of course! Ingesting oregano trumps teaching about the Oregon Trail. Everyone is worried about gluten, not too many about Putin.
Is this pathetic First World inability to prioritize the final nail in the coffin for “higher education?”
It’s certainly food for thought.