Students who rely on school lunches are often taking a gamble when it comes to the quality of the food, yet bringing a sandwich to campus day after day feels monotonous even if it’s convenient. But if food from the high school cafeteria is really that bad, university dining hall food can be even worse somehow — and harder to escape since many college students who live on campus depend on it for every meal. This is why I love Trader Joe’s. It’s a means of escape from the stale, unseasoned misery that is college campus food.

In my experience, meals in dining halls are not really prepared with quality in mind, just quantity. Menus are designed and dishes are prepared by massive private contractors like Compass Group, which has received repeated criticism over the quality of meals provided to schools and prisons. Pasta is overboiled, meat is unseasoned and overcooked, and the food is usually soaked with oil while the salad bar and other healthy options are neglected. It’s edible — but barely. With students rushing through the lunch and dinner rushes, serving utensils rarely stay in the containers they’re meant to, and cross contamination happens.

If you have dietary restrictions, you’re not going to find much of anything to eat at a university dining hall. Odd dining hall hours mean some meals are missed, and you need to figure something out for yourself.

Ben Timm is a sophomore at the University of Utah. Contact him at

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