Commons cafeteria food lacks healthy options and disappoints Students

Olivia Bachar

 Due to COVID, Saga offers to-go meals to reduce students in the cafeteria. 
Photo: Emma Cottrell

As an incoming freshman college student, I had many anxieties and fears, including failing all my classes, not making any friends, catching COVID-19 and the “freshman-15.” For those who do not know, the “freshman-15” refers to the weight gain, typically up to 15 pounds, people gain when transitioning into college life. Luckily, I have avoided this, but it has been very difficult. 

The main cafeteria, the Bertholf Commons, does not have many healthy food options. For instance, one of the staple meals is a grilled cheese sandwich and french fries. Together, without a drink or any other sides, the meal’s calories total around 800. The bulk of which, over 500, is from the grilled cheese sandwich. The same sandwich at the IWU “restaurant” Tommy’s is only about 250 calories. 

Why all of the extra calories? The answer is butter. If you have ever seen the preparation of the grilled cheese sandwich in Bertholf Commons, or SAGA as many call it, it is a bit scary. What seems to be at least a half a cup of melted butter is slathered onto the bread pieces and cooktop. Then the french fries are fried in oil. In my experience, the sandwich is not even filling, yet on a 2000 calories a day diet, 500 are wasted on that sandwich. I digress, typically there is a vegetarian meal option. However, it is still not the best option. 

For example, if the vegetarian option is eggplant parmesan with side vegetables there is usually a choice between fried and baked eggplant, I personally choose the baked. The dish seems fine, cooked fully, however there is a strangeness to the sauce. The marinara sauce is spicy, like someone has mixed tomato salsa instead of plain tomatoes into it. Last time this was served, I did not finish my plate and left feeling hungry that day. 

I often see student athletes getting the high-protein grilled chicken sandwich for lunch which is not all that good. Somehow, the outside of the chicken is always wet, while the inside is incredibly dry. The only way to add flavor is by adding sauce, of which there is an assortment available. However, many of these sauces, like ketchup and barbeque sauce, are high in sugar and corn syrup, two ingredients that are not good for you. 

Another blessing and curse of the Bertholf Commons are the readily available desserts. As someone with a sweet tooth, I find it hard to say no to the desserts. Especially with being lactose intolerant, I tend to grab the vegan cookies or cupcakes, which I have loved. The problem with the availability of the desserts is, although they are delicious, they are easy to mindlessly grab on your way out. A cookie or cupcake a day, sadly, does not keep the doctor or the freshman-15 away. The commons is not completely to blame. It is more so an easy-to-form bad habit. 

I have been the victim of dread as a result of undercooked or overcooked vegetables before, especially in the commons. A side of steamed vegetables seems like a healthy and semi-tasty choice until you actually start to eat them. I have had limp and cold green beans, as well as icy brussel sprouts so hard I thought I would crack a tooth. Every once in a while, there is the golden gem of the vegetables being both mildly hot and the perfect texture, not too limp and not too hard. 

There needs to be some serious changes in the kitchen of the Bertholf Commons, to provide healthy, delicious and edible food options for students.