Living on the Mount Vernon Campus has taught me to become flexible with finding and preparing meals, because there are fewer options to choose from than on the Foggy Bottom Campus. Ever since Safeway – Vern residents’ only nearby grocery store – closed in May, officials have tried to alleviate food insecurity concerns, but they still have a ways to go.
For the past month, the University began running a shuttle from the Vern to the Georgetown Safeway, extended Pelham Commons hours so students had more dining options late at night and proposed adding another grocery store to the campus. But the shuttle fills up quickly, and Pelham Commons is not open late enough to grab a meal at the end of the day. CVS and the Higher Grounds Cafe also do not provide enough nutritious food options for me to drum up a full meal.
It has been one month since the University overhauled the Vern’s dining plan, yet I am still faced with a lack of dining options and nutritious foods.
The shuttle operates three times per week, and students must sign up for the rides in advance. But the sign-ups fill up quickly given that there are only three shuttle rides, and the 30-minute hike to Safeway makes grocery shopping time-consuming and inconvenient. I have also arrived at the shuttle and waited for the bus to arrive for 20 minutes, only to sit in the shuttle for another 30 minutes.
Many students last year were hopeful that Pelham Commons’ hours would be extended to make up for the absence of Safeway. But instead, the opposite has occurred. What once operated from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. is now 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. I arrive home past 7:30 p.m. almost every night of the week, and am serially frustrated by the closed dining hall. Pelham Commons also does not serve breakfast, and with no grocery store nearby it can be difficult to find a meal in the morning before class.
Students’ other options are not much better. The late-night grill is open from 8 p.m. to midnight. But the grill is not an adequate alternative to healthy dining. It serves comfort food like burgers, fries and mozzarella sticks that lack nutritional value. Many options on the menu run out as the night goes on. Despite the grill’s basic selection and lack of nutritious fare, I often find myself with nowhere else to turn by the time I get back to the Vern.
Other options, like Higher Grounds Cafe and CVS, fall short as replacements for a grocery store. Higher Grounds is only open until 5 p.m. and fails to stock much nutritious food. Other than a few salads and expensive sushi rolls that are usually gone by 2 p.m., the cafe mostly boasts pastries and coffee. CVS is almost a half-mile from the Vern and stocks mostly snacks and pharmaceutical supplies, with a small range of grocery items.
All current options are inadequate, and it is left to Vern residents to attempt to mix these options together into something that resembles a meal plan. Skipping a class to eat at Pelham’s limited lunch hours, casting aside my diet to shovel down a burger at the grill or even buying a stack of ten dollar Caesar Salads from Higher Grounds Cafe just to ensure that I have dinner for the next week are all measures I’ve taken to adjust to the Vern’s meal options.
Administrators need to increase the quality of temporary solutions that are currently in place, including expanding Pelham’s hours and offering more frequent shuttles to Safeway that students do not need to sign up for. Officials could also open a grocery pop-up shop or grocery delivery. Right now, the Vern does not have enough options to live a healthy lifestyle despite officials’ temporary fixes.
Joseph Andrews, a freshman majoring in Political Science, is an opinions writer