by Andrew Gardewine, Contributing Writer
At larger universities students are given many different options for places to dine and much broader time frames in which to do so. For example: at Illinois State the Watterson Dining Commons resemble many characteristics of our own Ames Dining Hall here at McKendree. They both offer a variety of options, though ISU’s options are vaster which can be expected at a university that has around twenty times the enrollment as McKendree, each are still “all you care to eat”. The biggest difference I have noticed about Ames is the hours in which they remain open for students to sit down and eat a meal. Here at McKendree the dining hall closes periodically throughout the day while ISU’s remain open all day until the designated closing time. If Ames remained open all day many students would benefit.
The hours for Ames Dining Hall during the school week, found on the school website, are as follows: Breakfast 7a.m.-9 a.m., Continental Breakfast 9a.m.-10a.m., Lunch 11a.m.-1:30p.m., and Dinner 4:30p.m.-7p.m. While ISU’s Watterson Dining Commons hours are: Monday-Thursday 7a.m.-10 p.m., Friday 7a.m.-8p.m., Saturday 9a.m.-8p.m., Sunday 9a.m.-10p.m.(illinoisstate.com). Ames closes periodically throughout the day to prepare for lunch and dinner while Watterson stays open throughout the entire day never closing between meals.
Around 80% of McKendree students are in some sort of extracurricular activity whether it be for athletics, show choir, clubs, etc. This requires students to balance their nutrition with classes and practices, or meetings with their extracurricular of choice.
First-year students are often the group most affected by Ames hours. They have no other options when it comes to dining choices other than Ames and the 1828 cafe on campus. Freshmen are required to live on campus and sign up for a meal plan if they aren’t commuting from home. Therefore, if a first-year student happens to have a late evening practice or class during the dinner hours, they are out of luck.
The hours have seemed to affect McKendree Junior, Ryan Krause. In an interview I asked about his opinion on the hours at Ames, “I feel like I don’t have enough time sometimes. I used to eat dinner at 6:30 p.m. before I came here, but I felt like I could no longer do that anymore because of their closing time,” said Ryan. He went on to say “Hot breakfast closes way too soon in the morning,” and again reverted back to dinner saying “If I have 4 o’clock practice in the afternoon it typically gets out around 5:30. If I have a 6 o’clock night class it doesn’t give me nearly enough time to eat dinner.”
However, not everyone has the same schedule, Ryan may be a special case. For Joe Shannon, member of the McKendree Cross Country and Track teams, the hours at Ames seem to be flexible for his schedule. “I believe the dinner hours need to be extended, but besides that it can be considered flexible,” said Joseph Shannon about Ames dining hours. Different people will have different opinions based on their schedules throughout each day of each semester. No two people on this campus have the same day to day schedule.
As an athlete I know that keeping up with nutrition can sometimes be difficult to maintain. Some students have back to back classes during the lunch hours for Ames which prevent them from getting a bite to eat. I personally have had classes piled up that prevent me from having a meal for lunch due to the hours that Ames remains open. After a month or two of suffering through my lunch hours I spoke to a worker at Ames that mentioned that they offer a boxed lunch for people that don’t have time to sit down and eat. Each box comes with a sandwich of your choice, chips, and an apple. If you’re a student with a meal plan and little time between classes this option may work perfectly for you. I was unaware of this option because Ames doesn’t have information on it posted anywhere in the dining hall. If they were to make people aware of this option they would likely receive more customers and it could also prevent students from missing meals.
I had the privilege to interview the manager at Ames, Mr. Chandler Morley. In our discussion he acknowledged the problem with boxed meals, “We need to do a better job at getting the information out there to students. We are currently working on printing information cards and papers to have posted around campus to make students more aware of our boxed meal option,” he said. This option would present students with a very convenient meal, but would limit the student’s dietary options.
I asked Mr. Morley about why he thinks McKendree doesn’t have all day feeding, “The option hasn’t been presented to the higher ups. Not enough people have come forward and mentioned the hours being an issue. Student government could have a panel seeing if there is a demand for all day feeding and, if it gets enough support, our dining hall can fairly easily support the demand. Overall the major factor in our hours is the size of the university,” he said.
Though Ames could easily transition to all day feeding, Mr. Morley did mention that there would be issues with changing meal hours, “The meal plan would have to be completely restructured if Ames made the switch to all day feeding. Closing down the cafeteria periodically also allows us to clean between meals. If we were to stay open all day the place would end up being a mess,” he said.
Contrary to that opinion, couldn’t Ames just hire or designate workers to clean at all times throughout the day? They already have students working that help in the back with dishwashing and others that work up front with bussing tables. It surely wouldn’t be too difficult to find the time and resources to help keep Ames clean if they made the switch to all day feeding.
Mr. Morley mentioned another issue with all day feeding in regards to 1828, “If we made the switch to all day feeding we would also have to take a look and see if it were necessary to keep the 1828 Cafe open all day or if its hours would have to be changed too.” But, would making the switch really affect 1828? Most people stop by in between or before class for a quick bite to eat or drink, so what would be the difference? They would get a similar amount of traffic from commuters and students moving from class to class and therefore wouldn’t be losing much business, if any at all.
Many students have differing opinions about Ames meal hours. Some consider the hours to be flexible to their schedules, others believe hours should be extended, and some are a mix of the two with the main problem seemingly agreed upon as the dinner hours. The hours could be changed, but the McKendree campus community should be aware of the possible risks and many technical issues that would need to be taken care of for the switch. However, if the benefits outweigh the risks, why not change the hours?