It has been a long day of classes. You go to Jamba Juice and order your favorite custom shake to treat yourself. One choking gasp and a few coughs later, you are pulling a seven-inch string of green plastic out of your mouth.
Freshman Zak Zaidi’s crunchy shake did not inspire his taste buds.
“Why would you ever want to go to a place that shreds plastic in their drink?” Zaidi said. “That’s so unsanitary and unacceptable. Nobody ever wants to drink plastic.”
Okay, it doesn’t happen every day. Even most days. But finding proper nutrition as a college student can be difficult and it is critical that on-campus food services are viable options. There are a limited number of on-campus food options and students like Zaidi shouldn’t have to be worried about buying contaminated food.
For the record, Sodexo, the company in charge of all food services on the Chapman campus, gets passing grades from Orange County health inspectors. And its leaders don’t deny that mistakes inevitably happen.
But there remains the problem of students wanting balanced meals on campus.
According to the American Board of Clinical Social Work, through a study conducted at Northwestern University, as many as 95% of college students do not have a balanced diet. For busy students, eating out is much easier than going to the grocery store or cooking in a dorm room.
So what’s the state of food quality on campus?
According to some students, it’s not great.
In a post on Snapchat, freshman Taylor Carlson alleged that he found both a bug and hair in his food on separate occasions at Randall Dining Commons this semester.
“Found this guy swimming in the dressing today,” Carlson said.
In response, former Randall Dining Commons employee Jose Verdejo spoke highly about the safety measures that all employees are required to take. Aside from all employees having their own knife and set of gloves, they also play a unique “bingo” game to encourage sanitary behavior.
“Every day they threw out a number and if someone had an accident that day we don’t draw a number,” Verdejo said. “People tried not to have an incident just so we can have a bingo.”
Backing up Verdejo’s claims, Randall Dining Commons did pass a routine food facility inspection done by the Orange County Health Care Agency back in May of this year.
In October, however, another county investigation was done regarding a complaint that the facility undercooked chicken. Sodexo, Chapman’s food supplier that has operations all over the world, was aware of the issue and fixed it before the inspection took place. The company partners with various brands to bring food to this campus, according to Resident District Manager Eric Cameron.
Although some students like Carlson have encountered troubles at Randall Dining Commons, others feel happy with the option.
Anna Mills, a sophomore psychology major, affectionately called “The Caf” her favorite place to dine on campus.
“They have a bunch of different options, and change it for every meal. They also have a salad bar,” Mills said.
If variety is the goal, the dining commons certainly offers the widest range of foods on campus.
Not everyone agrees with Mills’ consensus.
Clare Hanly, a communications senior, criticized the lack of variety for students with food restrictions.
“There wasn’t a lot of variety for vegetarians unless it was rice or salad. Like I’m not a bunny,” Hanly said.
With that in mind, this place still remains the premiere location for underclassmen dining.
According to Niche, a website that ranks colleges based on student reviews, a meal plan at Chapman can average to be about $5,118 a year. The highest meal plan, 19 meals a week, still leaves three meals unaccounted for if students are expected to eat three meals a day.
So where else can students dine?
If one walks past the grandiose waterfall in what Chapman students call the Attallah Piazza, they will see a familiar outcropping of green umbrellas.
Arguably the most popular place to be on campus, Starbucks centralized location and quick service are major draws for some students.
Starbucks passed its own food inspection and besides a few dirty surfaces, it was in compliance with Orange County regulations.
Starbucks gold card holder and sophomore, Brycen Sochirantna, grabs a coffee before every big test.
“I like to get a venti caramel frappuccino with whipped cream, and the double smoked bacon cheddar and egg sandwich. That’s what I get every Friday,” Sochirantna said.
Argyros Forum has the most places for students to eat, including Jamba Juice, Einstein Bros., Qdoba, and Sub Connection.
Jamba Juice passed the Orange County Health Care Agency food inspection in May with only minor complaints about the ice machine being clogged.
Students, on the other hand, have had a lot to say about the quality of drinks they’ve been receiving.
Zaidi, a film production student, found the remnants of a plastic straw in his drink.
“It was really gross,” Zaidi said. “Throughout the rest of the drink there were little chunks of plastic green and orange.”
Zaidi visited Jamba Juice three times since enrolling at Chapman. Two of the three times resulted in a drink filled with plastic.
“Our team at Jamba have never had this concern brought to them, we looked at all our procedures and found nothing,” Cameron said.
While film studies major Kaila Ren has never found plastic in her favorite bowl, she also had her own complaint about her food.
“I was waiting like 15 minutes for the chunky strawberry bowl, and then they told me they were out of strawberries, but I paid already, so I had to get it with just bananas on top,” Ren said.
Einstein Bros. was found to be out of compliance with vermin proofing measures, but otherwise passed its food inspection.
According to Niche, 22% of students who submitted reviews cited Einstein as the most popular place to eat on campus.
“My favorite food is from Einstein’s bagel which is the turkey bacon avocado sandwich with ciabatta bread. They have like a sauce that they put on it, I think it has like mayo. It tastes super good,” Mills said.
However Martina Moussa, a public relations and advertising major, is not as enamored with the food service.
“That bagel place never gets my order correct. I always ask for no avocado, but they tell me they can’t change what’s on the menu or something,” Moussa said.
According to Sodexo, this behavior does not follow their official policy.
“A guest is always able to customize any order by removing, adding or substituting any ingredients, like adding avocado or no avocado,” Cameron said.
Sub Connection is a stop with relatively little traffic.
No students interviewed reported going there on a regular basis.
As for Sub Connection’s food inspection, it passed, but there were a few standout complaints.
“Toxic substances” were found to be improperly stored, some devices had plumbing issues, and the floors and ceilings were not clean. There has been no follow up on whether or not those issues were resolved.
Qdoba, which serves food reminiscent of Chipotle, is more popular.
“I like Mexican food, and Qdoba has a reasonably okay reputation in my mind compared to plastic drinks. I’ve yet to be wronged,” Zaidi said.
Sochirantna disagreed with Chapman’s use of the word “authentic.”
“I don’t go to Qdoba expecting super genuine Mexican cuisine. But I do go there expecting good tacos that will fill me up,” Sochirantna said.
And that seems to be the general consensus on food quality at Chapman. Filling, gets the job done, but there’s a bit of room for improvement.
The Orange County Health Care Agency declined to comment on food quality at Chapman University.
As for the student issues brought up, Sodexo’s policy urges students to email them at firstname.lastname@example.org with their complaints.
“We hope that any concern or problem our guest may have at any of our locations would be brought to us so we can address them immediately and look to find the root cause,” Cameron said.
Ava McLean is an avid traveler, milk drinker, and artist. Her life’s biggest regret is bleaching and dying her hair with information she received off of Youtube. Her hair is still recovering from that experience.