Campus food face-off

The cheapest option on campus definitely isn't the healthiest, but at Tim Horton's, a bagel and coffee will cost about a third of what it will at Sodexo. Photo: Calgary Reviews/Flickr.

Sodexo vs. Grassroots. Which campus eatery wins in this face-off? Here’s a hint: it’s not your wallet.

By Brendan Tyndall
[contributor] 

When it comes to finding something to snack on at campus, the options at Kwantlen’s Surrey campus are dire. Unless you have the time to wait in the interminable Tim Hortons’ line-up, or you’re feeling adventurous and want to test your luck with the greasy dollar-pizza next door, you’ve got two choices: the privately run Sodexo café in the Birch building, and the student-run Grassroots Café in the Cedar building.

Students who spend far too much of their week on campus, and are therefore forced to eat a lot of meals there, are practically certified Kwantlen gastronomes.

Most frequenters of the Sodexo and Grassroots on Surrey campus are both full-time students and part-time workers, so we’re often looking for food that tastes good, and is also easy on the wallet. Anything that won’t send us to an early grave is just a plus.

Here’s how the two cafés stacked up when pitted against each other.

Sodexo 

Taste: Other than the usual suspects of burgers, fries, various baked goods and granola bars, there is a fresh food cooler full of pre-packaged sandwiches, salads, and fruit and veggie cups. The burgers and fries are pretty standard, and the sandwiches taste exactly how you would expect a sandwich that comes in a box to taste.

Healthiness/Value: Trying to find something that won’t clog your arteries at the Sodexo café isn’t impossible, unfortunately the trade-off is that you have to be prepared to empty out your bank account. A tiny salad consisting mostly of iceberg lettuce with a few tomatoes thrown in will cost you about $5, and if you want a chicken Caesar—almost entirely lacking in nutrients save the protein from the chicken—you’ll have to shell out nearly $8.

Another healthy option at Sodexo are the sandwiches. The best one is the bagel sandwich, which consists of a slice of lunch meat (ham, I believe), a tiny bit of iceberg lettuce, a slice of cheese, and some mayo. At least it comes on a multigrain bagel.

A minus is that the sandwich costs close to $6.

The only difference between the Sodexo bagel and one that you can find at the Tim Hortons is the miniscule portion of meat, cheese, and lettuce—yet somehow, Sodexo’s costs three times as much. Is the ham and cheese worth $4? The sandwiches made on bread are even worse. Somehow, there is even less meat on the sandwich and the bread might as well be cardboard. At almost $5, shame on you Sodex.

Another options in the Sodexo café is the vegetable cup (some carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, a grape tomato or two), in which approximately a dollar’s worth of fresh veggies are marked up to an exorbitant $5. Though the $3 yogurt and berries cup is admittedly pretty decent. There is the option to get your sandwich made for you in a subway-esque setup—you get to choose the toppings yourself, which is a bit better than the pre-packaged stuff, but still pricey for what you get.

If you’re going to pay $7 for a sandwich made of stuff that’s usually in the fridge, some of the proceeds from the transaction ought to go to the starving sandwich artist, rather than some faceless corporation.

Grassroots Café

Taste: The Grassroots café offers a more diverse selection than Sodexo; some of the options include wraps, mostly made of chicken or vegetables, pasta dishes, the usual burger and fries, and soup and sandwich combos. The wraps are cooked to order, as are the stir-fry dishes. There is a decent selection of baked stuff and good coffee. And they serve beer (Okanagan Springs and Sleeman products mainly), a necessary staple for the student who’s stuck on campus for more than a few hours a day.

Value/Healthiness: The wraps taste good are relatively healthy, but wind up costing you just under $8. The Wednesday special of $5 sushi seems like a good deal at first glance, but the idea of serving pre-made sushi that is stored in a fridge all day is a bit dicey. There are some good deals on breakfast at Grassroots if you get there before 10 a.m. A daily breakfast special costs $4, which includes a coffee. Raise the price to $5 if you want to substitute your regular drip coffee for a latté.

To give the Grassroots credit, their wraps are good, even if overpriced, and their coffee is much better than Sodexo’s and Tim Hortons’. Supporting something run by students rather than some outside company is ethically the better choice. They have pretty cheap beer, which is a plus in my books. You still can’t get a decent meal for a decent buck at Grassroots, but at least you get a better meal for your money.

REFLECTION

What Kwantlen needs to recognize is that the majority of the people on campus are students, and therefore on a limited budget. It should not cost someone $10 or more to get a satisfying lunch at school.

Add that up over the course of a semester, and you’re spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars to eat here. It should be possible to find something healthy without paying an arm and a leg for it.

The reason so many people eat crappy food is that it’s way cheaper to get a slice of pizza or a burger than it is to get something healthy. The ideal solution is to bring your own food to school, but sometimes that’s not an option to those who carry around heavy textbooks and laptops in their bag and don’t can’t spare the room for food.

There is a fridge in the Grassroots where you can apparently store your stuff, but then you face the risk of it not being there when you go to find it. The cafeterias at Kwantlen understand that students have limited options and therefore are forced to buy food on campus, and use that as an excuse to gouge us.

What Kwantlen needs are some decent healthy food options that won’t break the bank. However, as long as people keep shelling out their hard-earned money for overpriced sandwiches and salads and greasy high-school-cafeteria quality burgers and fries, not much will change.

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