It’s 8:30pm on a Wednesday, and I’ve just finished my night course. Learning this late was obviously not my first choice, but the demands of Newcomb-Tulane’s distributional and major requirements don’t take into account that I’d rather have class during daylight hours. My stomach grumbles, and I become incredibly aware of how many hours have passed since lunch. I can’t wait to get home and prepare an amazing and balanced meal of instant mac and cheese and microwavable chicken nuggets.
I imagine you’re saying right now, “But Sylvie, why would you ever subject yourself to that? Why don’t you go to The Commons, the LBC, or make something yourself?” I smile at your naivety and respond, “silly reader, they’re already done serving dinner, and I live in a dorm!” The lack of food at this hour is an example of the overlooked group of Tulane students that are still forced to live on campus, forced to have a dining plan, and forced to survive without a kitchen during a pandemic.
I doubt I have to explain why using a communal kitchen during a pandemic is an unsanitary idea. Even more so, it is ridiculous to ask me to buy my own pots, pans, measuring cups, and other cooking supplies when I don’t even live in a house. As a college student on a tight budget and one who is being forced to pay upwards of $3,700 each semester for a meal plan, it is unrealistic to devote more of my money towards food resources that Tulane should be providing, just so that I am able to eat a non-microwavable meal after 8pm. If I lived off-campus, or in Aron, then I would definitely cook or meal prep the majority of the time as cooking and baking is more Covid safe than sitting in a restaurant. It is also unrealistic to believe that every Tulane student has the time to eat dinner before that time. Almost every day I either have a club meeting, homework, study groups, or night class. I, like everyone else, am running on my own schedule that doesn’t always allow for me to sit down at the Commons for a 40 minute meal. An alternative during the day is Hillel or the LBC, but again, every station except WOW Cafe closes before 8pm. And even the food that is served is limited in its capacity to provide healthy options. In the LBC, for example, both salad stations close before 6pm, leaving me to choose which WOW wrap I’d like to dine on that day. Maybe I could keep fresh produce in my room, but it’s expensive and my mini fridge doesn’t provide the space.
There are also more serious consequences to limited night dining options. According to the Child Mind Institute, 20% of female and 10% of male college students suffer from some type of eating disorder. The challenges of college added underlying mental health issues and an increased workload creates a “perfect storm.” The inability to access healthy food or food at all contributes detrimental to the recovery and health of these students. Further, bulimic, or binge-eating, patterns can be triggered when students try and fail to stick to unreasonably restrictive diets, especially if they know they only have a limited timeframe in which to eat. NEDA reports that 35% of “normal” dieters progress to unhealthy dieting, and of those, 20-25% develop partial or full-syndrome eating disorders. It is important to think about how restrictive dining hours contribute to harmful eating habits.
A great alternative is ordering off campus through NOLA bucks. Poke Loa, Jaszmine, and Green Olives Cafe are a few of the healthy, fresh options offered through this dining program; however, drawbacks include that not all of these restaurants deliver, and the vast majority of lowerclassmen students do not have a car This means that dining late is time consuming and can be fiscally consuming (by taking an uber there and back to pick up). I do not have time to do this usually, and I would bet that other students would agree with me.
There are simple ways to make healthy foods accessible for longer. Wall of Greens and Freshens at the LBC should at least be open until 8 or 9pm, especially for students on the TU-7 or TU-15 meal plan who have limited swipes but a large amount of wavebucks. Le Gourmet could even expand their hours, as smoothies, acai bowls and avocado toasts are great snacks throughout the day. Full service Commons available until 10pm and not 8pm is also a great idea as, again, many people simply do not have time to eat that early. Tulane should be aware of this just based on the sheer volume of night classes they offer. Further, the nutritionists that Tulane employs should be more heavily advertised, as many students would utilize them more if they were aware of the option. The solutions to increase healthy food on campus are simple and right in front of us, and change can be reached quickly if the administration starts to take into account the consequences of restricted dining hours, especially during Corona.
Cover Photo: The Crescent Graphics Team