Ah, Gwinn. Some hate it; some hate it a little bit less. Commuters long for it, missing the days of their meal plan when they had more to eat than plain pasta and chocolate chips.
Most on-campus students don’t acknowledge how good Gwinn actually is to them, causing it to be the butt of many complaints and jokes around campus.
Of course, many complaints simply reflect the privileged nature of this community, but others are perfectly valid, namely the recently reinforced rule of not taking food out of the cafeteria.
About two weeks ago, the Gwinn administration posted a notice on their door that said, “Attention Students: Absolutely NO Food, Beverage, or Utensils to be taken out of Gwinn Dining Hall! If Caught it could Result in A Disciplinary Write-Up.”
Of course students were upset about this “crackdown” on Gwinn crime, even though the solution is as easy as sticking the cookie, bagel or other item in your backpack — I’m not advocating for breaking the rules, but let’s be honest.
While this sign may not actually stop anyone from stealing and has recently been taken down, it has reopened the discussion about how Gwinn works and it’s monetary value.
It should be noted that keeping food inside the Gwinn Commons cafeteria isn’t a new rule.
It can be found in the student handbook and is a pretty standard cafeteria rule across the board.
However, this doesn’t mean the rule is automatically perfect or just. It is important to examine the purpose of keeping food in the cafeteria and why it should be rethought.
If you do the math, with a Weekly Block 10 meal plan you are paying roughly $11 per meal, and, since many swipes tend to go unused, the average price can turn out to be much higher.
Now Gwinn is by no means a five star restaurant and shouldn’t be treated as one, but it does have a responsibility to make sure students are maximizing the money they are spending, morally at least.
The thing that makes it so much harder to rationalize this rule is that almost all leftover food gets thrown away at the end of the day.
While this is a necessary step for health reasons, students shouldn’t be threatened from taking three extra cookies or a tupperware of rice back to their room when that food will ultimately be wasted on dumpster rats and squirrels.
First-year Makayla Hordyk briefly attended Pacific Lutheran University, where their cafeteria actually provided take out boxes for the students. The dining hall allows students to ask for their meal to-go and they would be served their food in a take-out box.
“This allowed students the ability to eat a good meal for breakfast and/or lunch instead of skipping those meals when they are really busy,” Hordyk said. “It also fostered community because students could sit outside together … [or in] any place that allowed food.”
Letting students take advantage of the meals that they are paying so much for should be something that the administration carefully considers, not only to respect students’ money, but also to minimize food waste on campus.
One club on campus, the Food Recovery Network, has begun the process of repurposing unused food in Gwinn to counteract these issues. This program is composed of volunteers who meet up three times a week in Gwinn and weigh food that is set aside by the Gwinn chefs.
The food is then donated to Operation Sack Lunch or delivered to a local homeless community, Tent City 5.
“This club is really important to me, not just because I am involved in it, but because it is something that just needs to happen, and I am able to facilitate that,” said Food Recovery Network Vice President Katie Ahern. “People rely on us for their meal, and simply transferring food can mean the difference between having a meal and not having one.”
In the end, Gwinn does its job. It provides food for students on campus and donates some of the extra food to the homeless.
However, there are still vast improvements that can be made to the system to make sure the overall impact of Gwinn is a positive one and not a blatant money grab.
Mary is a first-year theatre production major.