Food monopoly bad for students

ReAnne Utemark

ReAnne Utemark

Recently, our yearbook staff was asked by the Union officials to stop passing out cookies at their table in the Union. The director of the Union told them that they were not allowed to bring in food from outside of Chartwell’s. Now, I understand that the university signed a contract with Chartwell’s that would give it sole rights to cater within the Union and around campus. Fairly, that seems like a great clause for Chartwell’s, but it is student organizations, departments and students who get left out in the cold wind of crappy food and high prices.

Sure, the yearbook staff broke the union policy about bringing in outside food. However, it was not because they were lazy or because they just wanted to “stick it to the man,” they did it because in this current economic climate, it is hard to justify paying astronomical prices for cookies and other foodstuffs. To buy 24 peanut butter cookies from Chartwell’s catering costs $11.98 – and that is without tax and the service charge. This works out to be around $.49 per cookie without tax or service charge. If you want to get extra-fancy and go for the gourmet cookies (i.e. cookies with M&Ms), those are $7.99 per dozen or about $.67 per cookie. These figures are from the Web site, To buy 36 cookies from Dillon’s costs a whopping $7.98. That works out to be around $.22 per cookie without tax and there is no service charge.

This price gouging might be acceptable if the food were acceptable, but often, it is not. Sometimes, Chartwell’s outdoes itself – the food is on time and the right temperature. More often, the food is the wrong temperature, soggy or, as was the case at a function last semester, moldy. At a meeting for a candidate filling a position on campus, there was a cheese and cracker tray and when I went to reach for a piece of the cheddar, I realized that the cheese next to it had a fine dusting of a white/green powder. While this might have been a new kind of seasoning, it actually looked more like a mold was just beginning to grow.

I understand that business on a college campus needs to be conducted in a certain way. If there were no monopoly with Chartwell’s, no one would use it. I also understand that college students, for the most part, just like to complain, however, when student organizations’ budgets are eaten up by astronomical Chartwell’s prices, and don’t provide good service, it is a lose-lose system for all. Student organizations will work around the Chartwell’s monopoly – sneaking in dark corners with their pre-packaged cookies and soda.

And their attempt to appease us with Papa John’s is a little sad. A Washburn student can order and carry out a large, single-topping pizza for around $8 without tax. If someone orders a lot of pizza, like for a large group, there is often a discount per pizza. If someone goes through Chartwell’s, which saves the 15 minutes it takes to order and pick up the pizza, it will cost $11.95 before tax and it will probably be cold by the time it gets there. If a group orders six pizzas through Chartwell’s, it will cost more than $70. So much for a cheap way to feed people.

$17.99 for a gallon of orange juice or $12 for a gallon of watery lemonade may be a way to get money from outside groups that come in to use Washburn’s facilities, but it is a terrible way of treating students and student organizations.