The dos and don’ts of campus dining

Ryan Lewis

For many incoming freshmen, it will be the first time most of their food isn’t coming out of a parent’s fridge.

Those who have come and gone from Kent Campus eateries know: there are some tricks and tips to maximize the dining experience.

Nathan Edwards, a recent graduate of Kent State, laid out some of Eastway’s better options (albeit not always the healthiest).

“The nacho bar at Eastway is amazing,” he said. “And the omelet bar there is pretty clutch.”

Edwards has spent a couple of years both on and around campus, and he said he’s found every little back-corner option, whether trying to eat late or in a hurry.

“The deli at Prentice is awesome,” he said. “They have the best wraps, and it’s fairly quick. The second floor of the Student Center has great food for the lunch — the pasta bar is always jammed pack. But the hidden gem is the Indian food on the second floor. It tastes great and is an alternative to greasy food. And I forgot, the Kent Steak at Rosie’s is the best. It’s a wonderful cheese steak.”

Just stay away from the pizza, Edwards said. “No pizza is good on campus,” Edwards said. “None.”

Jeff Belcik, senior integrated language arts major, said he shares Edwards’ penchant for Prentice Cafe wraps, though Belcik may be a bit more enthusiastic.

“I love getting the wraps at Prentice,” Belcik said, citing buffalo chicken, or “buff-chick,” as the best. “When I lived on campus, which was freshman and sophomore year, I had at least one a day, sometimes two or even three.”

Belcik also said he fancies the omelet bar at Eastway, mostly because it offers bacon, and echoed Edwards’s sentiment about Rosie’s being the best late-night option. Aside from the ordered food available, there’s a market right next to it.

While there are many options are available on campus — including Subway, Nathan’s Hot Dogs, Arthur Treacher’s and Einstein Bros. Bagels in the Student Center — many students have a harder time managing their meal plan money than deciding what to eat. The less expensive meal plan balances do not roll over after the spring semester.

Edwards said he has seen the same scene play out before.

“At first, freshmen always underspend,” he said. “Then they realize they have no money left over, so they go into the habit of spending their money at the markets. Then they lose track of their money and realize they don’t have much, so they tend to leech onto one kid who has some obscure number like $1,000 left with three weeks to go. So they get as many free meals as possible, then the cycle starts all over again.”

Belcik said he knows to look out for the people who underspend.

“There are a lot of people who barely spend any money on their card and end up needing to spend it by the end of the semester,” he said. “It’s nice if you can befriend those people. Like Catherine, for example, who I’m pretty sure only ate nuts and berries like a squirrel and had hundreds of dollars left over.”

That’s Catherine Zedell, senior visual communication design major, who said she wanted more variety than what was offered when she was a freshman or a sophomore. At the end of both of those years, she said she had around $500 she couldn’t spend that was lost to the university.

“I didn’t want to eat the fast food or fried food all the time,” she said. “Their selection is sparse, especially for vegetables. You can get apples and stuff in the markets, but it’s not much.”

Aubrey Johnson, junior public relations major, said she doesn’t think students being forced to have a meal plan while on campus is a good idea.

“In my opinion, it’s a horrible way of teaching people how to use fake money because it’s basically fake food money, and they don’t eat healthy or spend it wisely,” Johnson said. “Although the food plan seems helpful and convenient, students need to be careful and be conscious of what they’re buying. Don’t overdo it.”

Three years ago, Kent State was contacted by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and has since made a strong effort to increase the amount of healthy, vegetarian and vegan options on campus. In 2010 and 2011, PETA recognized Kent State as one of the most “vegan-friendly” schools among large universities across the nation.

Dining Services director Richard Roldan said Kent State now advises students to choose the light or basic plans, in large part because most students don’t eat 100 percent of their meals on campus.

“People that aren’t spending, aren’t spending their dollars here,” Roldan said. “They get these huge balances because they’re either living here but spending time with a friend at an apartment or with a girlfriend who is local or something like that. We tend to steer most people to the light or basic plans unless you’ll be here seven days a week or eating four of five meals a day.”

Contact Ryan Lewis at [email protected].