This is an opinion article. Any views expressed belong solely to the author and are not representative of The Cluster.
If you've ever been walking around Mercer’s campus around lunchtime, you've likely seen students flock to one of the on-campus dining options for a meal.
Mercer currently has six dining establishments to feed students: Panda Express, Chick-fil-a, Einstein’s Bagels, Which-Wich and Mercer's dining halls, the Farm and cafeteria.
While it may seem like this is a decent amount of places to eat, living on campus and not having access to other food options heavily influences the effectiveness of eating at these restaurants. There is simply not enough variety or healthy, on-the-go dining options for students.
Living on campus with a standard meal plan, I would often circulate between options and get various meals each time I visited. However, after about three weeks of the same food options to choose from each day, I got very tired of eating the same food even after selecting a different menu item for each visit.
These franchise locations also do not offer the full menu of their local counterparts, and some of them only have four or five options on the menu that are included as a meal swipe. So for someone with limited dining dollars, you only have a small amount of money over the course of the semester to contribute to getting different meals or side options that vary your palette.
Eating healthy is also an important aspect of any on-campus dining experience. While the Farm does an excellent job providing students with locally grown food, there is not an easy option for healthy food for the student on the go.
Eating in the Farm is a dine-in experience, and rushing to work or class and needing a healthy meal easy to transport would be a lifesaver for students who need to eat quickly. It would be especially practical for students who dine on campus multiple times a day and are constantly eating heavily processed and fried foods.
In addition to variety, accessibility is also a key issue for students living on campus. The dining hours on campus for meal options are varied and limited on the weekends, and some locations close altogether.
If a student wants convenient and different dining options on the weekend, they can turn to off-campus options in neighboring Mercer Village, including Margarita’s, JAG’s, Subway, Nu-Way, Z Beans and Francar's. This comes at a cost, however — students can't use their meal plans and must spend out of pocket to eat varied options.
While these are not technically on-campus dining options, they are a good way to get food on weekends for a freshman who may not have transportation or wants to stay near campus.
Overall, Mercer’s dining options might be adequate for a student eating there a few times a week, but for the student who eats on campus daily, the options can get monotonous and even unhealthy. A healthier on-the-go campus establishment would benefit students, as well as including more of the menu options as meal swipes.
Offering a wider range of options would improve the on-campus dining experience for all and would provide so many more options for students no matter their meal plan, schedule or diet.