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Thursday, April 2, 2020

OPINION: Community or corporate?

As Bellingham residents and Western students, it has been ingrained into our heads that the importance of being a part of Western means being a part of the community. Students attend countless classes and clubs, dedicating their time to making Bellingham a better place to live.

Western focuses so much on being an integral part of the local economy, so when we received the email survey from Dining Services last week all we could think was “why would we even consider going for more corporate food on campus?” We already have Panda Express, Starbucks and two Subways (which if we’re being honest, we still don’t understand, who likes Subway that much?).

Currently, the university partners with local businesses including Avenue Bread, The Bagelry and Tony’s Coffee. They even stock local milk and produce in the dining halls. So when we took the survey sent out by Aramark to gather student input regarding the new eatery going into Sam Carver Gymnasium, we were disappointed to see options such as Taco Bell, McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King and Jack in the Box. Now, of course everyone has a soft spot for greasy and delicious fast food every now and then. But on campus, where we spend most of our time and money, we want a higher level of quality and variety.

The eatery going into Carver is coming soon and coming in full force – it will emerge as part of the renovations starting this July, and the university hopes to have made a decision on the restaurant by fall 2015. We just hope to see a sign going up for something other than all of the chain brands easily accessible off campus.

Bellingham has so much to offer in terms of food and there’s likely to be a long list of local restaurants that would love to have a spot on Western’s campus. Even having a booth on Vendor’s Row is a coveted commodity. But even then, it’s hard for students to eat there because all the vendors only take cash.

If the cash-only policy doesn’t bother you the prices might. The other day we went to get a slice of pizza from Topios and it was almost $5. Granted, none of us have meal plans, but neither do a large number of students on campus. Most of us live in our own homes or apartments and cook much of our food for ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we won’t need something to fuel our growling bellies part way through the day.

As students who spend at least 10 hours a day on campus, it’s hard to want to eat the same sandwich from Subway or overcooked orange chicken from Panda Express, especially when we feel like it’s going to burn a major hole in our wallets. Coffee from Starbucks gets old and granola bars from Miller Market only does the taste buds so much justice. Are these first world problems? Absolutely. But we’re paying first world dollars for top-notch education and would love to see the food service at least make an attempt to match that standard.

Bellingham is a beautiful city nestled in the corner of the Pacific Northwest, with a strong agricultural community that supports a wide variety of fine cuisines. Local businesses could provide the sandwiches and ethnic variety we crave. Bellingham coffee roasters could caffeinate our campus. So shouldn’t the university of that city reflect that?

Western is known for it’s locally centric ideals and integration with the city of Bellingham. It is a place of education that feeds the industry and markets of our region, so shouldn’t our region feed us? We want higher quality food and we want it local.

The Western Front Editorial Board is composed of Anna Jentoft, Dylan Green, Brandon Stone and Stephanie Villiers.

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