Food prices on campus tough to swallow

Op-eds Opinions

Monopoly isn’t fun. Many of us have sat down at the kitchen table on a Friday night expecting to play an enjoyable board game. After you land on Park Avenue for the third time and run out of money, though, you feel like flipping the board across the room in a fit of rage. Looking at the price of food on campus can be just as infuriating. UVic offers no competition between different food franchises. Food Services can set prices on food and beverages on campus as high as they want to. Since there are no grocery stores or fast food options within quick walking distance to campus, students have no alternatives during breaks, giving Food Services a monopoly.

Mickey Ulbricht, a graduate student from Germany, was astonished by the price of food on campus when he first came here. “At my university back home, you could usually get a full meal (steak, potatoes, and veggies plus a soup or salad) for €2 ($2.99). At UVic, I cannot find a meal for anywhere near that price.” When he saw the prices of meals inside Mystic Market, he asked himself, “Why do people pay that much money for a simple lunch?”

Radhika Menon, who is earning a major in Chemistry and a minor in Business, agrees with Mickey, saying that a sandwich and a coffee shouldn’t cost ten dollars. She has a busy schedule with lectures and labs from morning to evening, often requiring her to be on campus all day. She currently spends about $50 a week on lunches and wishes there was a “cheaper alternative.” As a full-time student, Radhika has “a lot of stress about money,” and believes that a fast food franchise on campus would be a win-win. It’s a “lucrative business” which offers “cheap, convenient food” for students. A fast food chain would win by generating more profit while students win by saving money.

The University of Victoria is an anomaly among Canadian universities for its lack of fast food franchises. Carleton University boasts five Tim Hortons locations on campus, but still falls short of the University of Western Ontario, which has six. Simon Fraser has two Starbucks locations, while UBC has three.

To examine how much money franchise alternatives could save students, I made a chart comparing the prices of common food and drink orders at UVic versus those at common fast food franchises. All prices are before taxes.

Chart by Will Dahlem. Graphics by Christy Shao, Graphics Editor.

As we can see from the chart, a student who buys a sandwich and a hot chocolate every weekday at Biblio would spend $39.00 a week. If the same student bought the same products every weekday at Tim Hortons they would spend only $30.50 a week. Similarly, if a student wanted to have a slice of pizza every day, they could spend $14.95 a week at Mystic Market or $8.45 a week at Second Slice. Over time, the savings would add up.

Until we get a McDonalds, Burger King or some other franchise on campus, your best option is to shop at Thrifty’s, Save-On, or Fairway and bring a bagged lunch to school. The food at Biblio and Mystic Market isn’t worth the price.