Popular dining spot Café 84 will close this fall, reducing the already limited food options of USC students. The inaccessibility of food on campus — the limited hours, the weekend closings, the small range of options — is an issue of growing concern for USC students. Yet the University has only extenuated the issue by removing Café 84. Instead, the University will have — get this — a fourth Starbucks on or near campus.
A new dining hall, located within the USC Village, is to serve as Café 84’s replacement. The Office of Residential Education claims that this new dining hall will serve the students of West Residential College better, seeing as it will serve twice as many diners and stay open on weekends. However, it underestimates the inconvenience posed to the majority of students who do not reside in the USC Village. The dining hall is inconveniently far from not only West residents, but also all on-campus residents.
The decision to eradicate one dining hall and replace it with another that is far more inaccessible does not diversify students’ food options. According to the USC Hospitality website, Café 84 was recently renovated “to accommodate the increasing requests for healthier menu options.” These renovations included a new focus on local, whole foods and an expansion of healthy vegetarian and vegan options. It seems that the University has removed one of the few dining options to offer healthy selections — only to replace it with a coffee franchise.
Constructing another Starbucks is redundant, considering it will be the fourth Starbucks on or near campus, with the other three located by New North residence halls, the USC Village, and the intersection of Figueroa and Exposition respectively. The new Starbucks will also compete with the existing Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf located within the School of Cinematic Arts. There appears to be no good reason for the University to replace Café 84, except that this trade-off will generate more revenue.
Starbucks is not a place students can eat at for every meal, and its menu prices could limit food accessibility to students who do not purchase dining dollars or want to budget their food expenses. Furthermore, Starbucks has a limited menu; although it’s a great place to grab a coffee or a quick study snack, its utility ends there.
It is difficult to believe that the revenue gained from replacing a dining hall with yet a fourth Starbucks is vital to a University with a $4.6 billion endowment. The replacement suggests that the University has ignored the needs of its students in opting for a profitable chain to replace the nutrition-focused Café 84. While the new dining hall is said to feature an all-plant based station, the University must also factor in food accessibility for its students — dining halls should be strategically placed all around campus to cater to student needs. As USC’s campus expands, food options are a necessary aspect of that expansion. Although the construction of the USC Village holds the promise of a wider range of food options with a new dining hall, the prevalence and accessibility to dining halls on the campus itself should not be overlooked. Students, especially those not on a meal plan, cannot afford to eat out every day, and dining halls play a crucial role in ensuring that students are well-fed with a variety of dining options to select from.
Starbucks menu prices could limit food accessibility to students who do not purchase dining dollars or want to budget their food expenses. While the USC Village will host a new dining hall in addition to a handful of restaurants, the dining hall is inconveniently located for students not living in the Village, and the high-end restaurants are likely to be out of the price range of some students. Trader Joe’s, for example, is a grocery store known for its high prices, and the restaurants and retail spaces filling the USC Village are unlikely to be in the price range of food-insecure students. The closing of Café 84, and its subsequent replacement with a franchise, highlights a growing campus problem. The issue of food accessibility is not one which should be ignored by the University as it continues to expand our campus.