When I first came to Webster in the fall of 2016, one of the things that got my attention was the food: the wide range of options, the friendly workers and last but certainly not least, the quality of the fare itself.
Plus, there was the easy-to-use meal plan system. I always chose the cheapest one, which consisted of a bunch of meal points – no Gorlok bucks, no block meals, none of that – just points. You could spend them on whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted. If, for some reason, you ran out, you could always buy more. But most students found themselves with a bunch of extra points at the end of the year, so they’d stock up on drinks and snacks to take home for the summer.
The plan cost X dollars, and they gave you something like twice X in meal points, with each point supposed to be worth a dollar in food. So, it was a good deal, at least in theory. We’ll just forget about the fact that a cup of grapes cost eight meal points.
Anyways, every morning, I’d wake up long before class, walk from West Hall to the Cyber Cafe and order a cinnamon twist and some unnecessarily complicated espresso concoction: half-caf, two pumps of this, one pump of that and skim milk instead of whole. And it came out perfect. Every time.
For lunch, I’d mosey on up to the UC for a five-piece tender combo from WOW. The still-sizzling tenders were always golden and crispy. The fries were hot and well-seasoned. The Pepsi tickled your throat on its way down.
If I was feeling particularly health conscious, I’d get a rice bowl from Freshëns, or a margherita flatbread from Sandella’s. And even if these options weren’t actually healthy, it didn’t matter, at least not to me, because the food itself was usually good. The taste assuaged any health concerns.
But those were the old days, and sadly, Sandella’s has long since gone the way of the dodo, just like Far East Fusion, the complimentary Metro UPass, and just about everything else that has cost the university face – or too many pennies.
Fast forward to today, and Webster’s culinary landscape is now a barren wasteland.
For one, everything is always out of stock. The coffee shop, for example – once a Kaldi’s, but is now a “Sun Coffee Roasters,” whatever that may be – features a laminated list of unavailable items which, at times, seems longer than the menu itself. The fresh-baked muffins, danishes and cinnamon twists of my freshman year are gone, replaced with store-bought cereal and granola bars.
Meanwhile, Marletto’s is perpetually devoid of to-go cups, fruit juice and various other drinks. For example, any attempt at extracting lemonade from either soda fountain is inevitably met with a cold shower of tap water. If you don’t want Pepsi, you must try your luck at the vending machines, which are often defunct.
The last time I ordered a Mexican rice bowl from Freshëns, I was told that, due to some shipping mix-up, they were out of both red onion and black beans.
Perhaps most bothersome, however, is the frequency with which the SubConnection lacks the proper breads and meats with which to construct sandwiches. I have become so accustomed to this condition that I have devised an alternative method for procuring a chicken sandwich: First, I order two chicken breasts from the grill. On the off-chance that the grill does indeed have two chicken breasts on hand, I order a vegetable sandwich from SubConnection, having already resigned myself to eating some kind of bread other than the kind I want. Upon successful acquisition of the vegetable sandwich, I cut the aforementioned chicken breasts into pieces with plastic utensils, then arrange them within the sandwich itself. Then, I try my best to enjoy lunch.
I know, I know. It all sounds very petty, very first-world-problematic. Very Karen. But for the amount of tuition I and other students pay – which, according to Webster’s website, is something like $29,640 for the 2022 school year – one would expect good, ready-made food. Food that is in stock.
I am not the only one who harbors this opinion. Not only do I frequently hear other students voice such concerns, but I also spoke with a disgruntled faculty member who harbors the same opinion. She wished to remain anonymous.
“I’m disappointed that we have a cafeteria that doesn’t keep food stocked, at least fresh food,” she said. “I hear every day from my students that on any given day, Marletto’s is out of multiple foods. And I’ve also heard from students that they’ve been ignored by kitchen staff. Overall, this makes for an unpleasant experience.”
This is not to mention what is arguably the biggest problem: The food that is available is neither diverse nor good – and certainly not up to the standard that Webster’s cost of attendance would suggest.
Just the other day, for example, I ventured to try the “Turkey Noodle Soup.” I ladled the strange liquid into a cardboard cup, paid for it with a block meal, and walked carefully – Marletto’s was out of lids – to my table. Further inspection yielded indeterminate results, so I dared to taste it, whereupon I realized the awful truth. The soup consisted of brackish water littered with thin strips of sandwich meat, leading me to my next troublesome thought: maybe SubConnection’s chronic dearth of ingredients might be attributable to the cafeteria’s recipes for soup?