Bear’s Den food selection, prices, serving sizes should be reconsidered

Robert Brachman | Contributing Writer

I returned to school this semester, aching to spend my extra meal plan points. I was prepared to devour all of the food that WashU offers us. Unfortunately, as I stepped into Bear’s Den, something seemed amiss. The food was not as I had remembered it.

This semester has brought small, but impactful changes to Bear’s Den and Paws and Go. The first one that I noticed was the chili. Last semester I ate that chili nearly every week, if not more often. It was a staple of my diet. It has been replaced with vegetarian chili. Everyday my friends and I have checked if Bon Appetite has brought back one of our favorite foods that they serve. Everyday our spirits are crushed and filled with disappointment. I know that we are not alone in this. Near that soup bar, I have spoken with several other people. Each of them expressed the same distress that I have become all too familiar with over this chili. One of them tried to warn me about the quality of the vegetarian chili. I have even spoken with several of the cashiers about this issue, and how to fix it. Obviously, there is the “food suggestion box” (near the plastic utensils on the left of the cash registers when you exit the food court area), but there are too few of us filling out these slips. The cashiers at Paws and Go told me that “You’re not the only one upset, we are too.” I was also told that last semester “the chili sold all day every day.” Now, from what I can tell, and from everyone I ask, nearly no one buys it. Not even my vegetarian friends like it.

But some will argue the change was to provide more healthy food alternatives. This would be great if they did not already offer a vegetarian soup every day, before they changed the chili. Furthermore, eating a healthy diet is unsustainable at this school. Have you ever checked the price of fruit? At breakfast a single bowl of fruit, which is essentially ten grapes and a pineapple cube, is more than three dollars! The prepackaged fruits at Paws and Go are even more costly, somehow. There, getting a container of mixed fruit can cost anywhere between about $3.05 and $5.25, depending on whether or not they add a single strawberry. I understand that as people we should be trying to eat healthily, but eating the right amount of calories from these options is far more costly than getting say a half and half. It takes around three of these fruit packages to fill me the way a half and half does. With the current amount of meal points we can reasonably afford, it is extremely hard to justify spending fifteen meal points per meal when you can spend only five.

There was one station, however, that I always felt justified in spending that amount on vegetables. The stir fry station. Despite the relatively steep cost of $6.35, it was always tasty and I could feel at least slightly healthy since my meal was mostly green peppers, lettuce, and onion, all vegetables. But not anymore! For those who do not know, Bon Appetite stealthily changed the size of our vegetable bowls at stir fry. They are now significantly smaller than last semester. Ironically, the one meal that forced you into being sort of healthy is now less healthy than ever!

This brings me to the issue of serving sizes and prices. It seems as though the chicken fingers are getting constantly smaller, as are the handfuls of fries. Ordering onion rings at Bear’s Den nets you approximately eight onion rings, for $3.60. As I mentioned previously, there are the stir fry bowls. In the Duc, ordering a buffalo chicken wrap gets you three pieces of buffalo sauce covered chicken fingers. I understand they need to make a profit, but we need to be fed too.

We, as a student body hold power. We, as a student body can convince Bon Appetite to fix their pricing model, serving sizes, and selection of foods. Am I saying that vegetarian chili should go away? No. But it should be an alternative for only a few days of the week, not everyday.

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening at Washington University and beyond.