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Despite Progress, Crooker Meals Still Below Par

The new exhibition days initiative fails to address deeper issues

By Astrid A. Guevara
On April 4, 2016

As many UST residents will tell you, the Crooker cafeteria has much room to grow. Compared to UH’s or Rice University’s large variety of options, UST’s cafeteria is very lacking.

Sure, Crooker does its job. We can’t complain for the service of the cafeteria employees or for the things that are being done to improve. For example, we have a fully-functional Subway that also serves pastries and Seattle’s Best Coffee. Our cafeteria does have some meal options, such as vegetarian meals, a burger line, and a salad bar. Just recently, also, Crooker has upgraded what are known as “exhibition days.” One day a week, the burger area is fitted to allow for students to “build their own meals.” There have been days when students have been able to build their own baked potatoes, pastas, and stir fry with vegetables and dressings of their choice. The result is a pretty decent, hot, and fresh meal that actually tastes delicious.

Photo by Jesus Ramos

“My best experience [with Crooker] would be the Wednesday exhibit,” says freshman resident Priscilla Phuong, “I look forward to the food on those days.”

However, this is only on certain days. An excellent meal on one day of the week does not make up for horrible meals the rest of the times. The “exhibition days” only serve “build-your-own-meals” for lunch. Breakfast and dinner remain the same. Although you may think Crooker is okay, the truth is that it doesn’t live up to residents’ expectations. After all, they have to eat here three times a day.

“I’d say [the food] here is pretty good, but, like anything, it can be improved,” says resident Richie Nguyenphat, “We don’t have enough food options.”

“When I grab food for dinner, the options are kind of limited,” says Phuong, “I would definitely not recommend St. Thomas based on food.”

Residents, for the most part, choose to live on campus either because they work here or in the Houston area, are involved in more organizations and responsibilities, or are taking a heavier course load. They don’t have the time or transportation to go outside of campus to eat, so are more dependent on Crooker. Having said that, we expect meals that are quick, healthy, and satisfying. Crooker does not provide that.

Let me tell you one example of this. I am one of the students taking the heavier course load and one of my classes is an 8am. Crooker, however, opens at 7:30. Being a resident, I am required to purchase a meal plan for the semester - $1,675 that I will never completely use up. I have no choice but to go to Crooker, since I don’t have a car. Most of the time, the workers at the cafeteria do not open at 7:30 but a few minutes late. This isn’t even the biggest problem. On February 23, the day of a calculus exam at 8am, I realized the pancake I had bought was completely raw in the middle – completely raw pancake mix. This is unacceptable – it is a safety hazard and not what the students of St. Thomas have paid for or deserve. People could get sick. How would someone react to this if this had happened at a restaurant? If this had occurred at a restaurant, there would be terrible consequences! We are getting food not suitable for humans. They might as well give us dog food for breakfast.

Other students at St. Thomas have had similar experiences. The same food options come up week after week. The vegetables are unsavory and the food is just plain dull.

“I can see that they are trying to change things up,” says Nguyenphat, “but I get tired of the food and eating the same thing.”

Many of us have had to take out loans to pay for our college tuition and have worked our butts off to pay for our education. Do you think the students of UST and their families have made sacrifices for this kind of treatment? We pay good money to the school and expect the service we deserve. It doesn’t have to be a five-star restaurant or anything like the cafeterias of Rice or UH. But it has to be suitable for our school. Unsanitary food is not suitable.

“The food could use some work,” says Phuong, “I don’t think I’m getting my money’s worth.”

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