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Opinion: Why some students aren’t fans of “All You Care to Eat” dining

Celeste Ferguson


Willamette has offered “All You Care to Eat” (AYCE) meals since before some current first-years were born, and for the majority of that time they’ve been very popular among students. There are two categories of currency in a typical Willamette meal plan: meal points and AYCE points. While meal points reset once per semester and can be used for any kind of meal, AYCE points only buy AYCE meals and reset every week. Recently, students have been wondering why they aren’t supposed to take food out of Goudy during AYCE meals and if it’s time to propose alternative setups. While the current system is clearly well-intentioned, it also runs the risk of incentivising theft, which throws off the measurements Goudy staff keep in order to maintain a low-waste operation. It’s quite possible that a change in the rules might actually lead to more accurate food monitoring, as well as better-fed students.

Ellen Turner (‘22) expressed concern that “there’s a lot of people who have commitments and sports, and they can’t always make it to Goudy during traditional meal times.” 

Niamh Sheehy (‘22), student-athlete and frequent Goudy patron, proposed a window from 7-7:30 p.m. on weeknights during which students could bring their own reusable containers to Goudy and take a reasonable portion of leftovers home. She emphasized that introducing this to-go window would not extend Goudy staff hours, but would allow a specific time-period during which students could leave with leftovers. Both expressed concern that not only couldn’t fellow students make it to the current mealtime window, but that the food that they would’ve enjoyed might go to waste as a result.

As it turns out, food that isn’t consumed during dinnertime is rarely thrown away. According to Director of Dining Services Lindsey Leisinger, uneaten food is often repurposed, donated or composted through collaboration with Union Gospel Mission and the Food Recovery Network. This means that our leftovers are generally not going to waste.

Lindsey explained that from a business standpoint, allowing students to take leftovers from AYCE meals skews food cost calculations that she feels are particularly important to Goudy’s low-waste operation. Staff prepare meals in small batches specifically to avoid waste, so they need to be able to predict with relative accuracy how much food they should actually be making. Furthermore, from a non-business standpoint, Lindsey sees the AYCE meals as “a time when you can be social with your friends. I find that students who take food to go don’t integrate as much. It can be kind of isolating.”

While these rules may have been created in the best interest of the student body as well as in the sustainability of Goudy as a low-waste entity, mild and common forms of theft during the AYCE meals such as that of pastries, hot chocolate packets and even decorative produce out of the building currently go uncounted by the Goudy staff. These items are routinely smuggled out by students who want to enjoy them later, and because they’re often taken covertly or in too small a quantity to warrant concern, there’s really no way to track them. Of course the loss of these low-cost items might not be terribly impactful to Goudy’s measurements, but if that’s the case, why can’t students just take this amount of food overtly? Why can’t they take this quantity of food, but in the form of healthier items? The foods that students are able to leave with are often carbs, sugar and sometimes fruits, whereas complex, nutrient-rich meals can’t be smuggled out. In any case, allowing students to openly take leftovers would allow for better accuracy in measuring consumption, which should in turn further Goudy’s low-waste mission.

Students absolutely have a say in how their dining halls are run, and they have every reason to expect to be listened to. Our current hybrid meal plan was researched, planned and proposed by past students, and Leisinger has made it clear that she is always open to hearing new proposals. If students want to be allowed to take leftovers from AYCE meals, they’re welcome to pitch an amendment, especially if that amendment takes into account the sustainability and business demands that the Goudy staff hope to maintain.

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