USC should consider adding a 24-hour dining hall

Starbucks at Trojan Grounds in McCarthy Quad is currently the University’s only 24-hour food option. (Daily Trojan File Photo)

USC should consider keeping at least one of its dining halls open for 24 hours. Currently, the only place students can get food and drinks on campus 24/7 is the Starbucks at Trojan Grounds near Leavey Library. While Starbucks is absolutely convenient and may be the perfect place for a late-night snack, students need access to a more substantial menu on campus — and this could take the form of a 24-hour dining hall.

All three dining halls on campus close at 10 p.m. on weekdays. While this is usually enough time to get in that last meal of the day, many USC students have busy schedules with classes and other obligations that often extend well into dinnertime. Because of this, a strict, three-meals-a-day routine is not always feasible. Especially during exam season or for those who have tight schedules, it is difficult to get back from class or study closed doors. 

After 10 p.m., students may often resort to off-campus eateries that are less convenient and may not be as healthy. Not only does this force students to leave campus after dark, but most of the surrounding restaurants are also fast-food chains that clearly do not provide the most nutritious food options. 

In the case that students choose not to go off campus, they may opt to skip meals or settle for snacking instead, which poses further health concerns. Adequate nutrition is essential to any healthy lifestyle, and while it may easily slip the minds of busy college students, USC should take the initiative to promote healthy eating habits, which can be done by keeping a dining hall open for 24 hours.

Having to eat off campus also means that students are spending extra money outside of the thousands of dollars they may already spend on meal plans. If this extra spending is not something that a student can afford, this may also lead to unhealthy eating habits. Since students may be paying more than $3,000 each semester on “unlimited” dining, why not make the dining experience truly unlimited by implementing a 24-hour system? 

Additionally, all three dining halls do not open until 7 a.m. on weekdays. This is sufficient for the majority of students, but there are some students who, because of early start times for work or class, could benefit from a 24-hour dining hall. Starting off the day with food in your system is extremely important, especially for those with the rigorous academic and professional lives that USC students often lead, and the University could better support this by opening the dining halls for 24 hours to accommodate.

A 24-hour dining hall would also mean that students would have a reliable place to eat at all times, whereas with the current system, students must schedule eating times around the 30-minute to two-hour breaks that the dining halls take to transition between meals.

There are obvious drawbacks that must be considered if a dining hall were to be open 24 hours. It may become more common for students who have been at parties to come back to dining halls late at night, and it could be difficult for dining halls to support hordes of incapacitated students. It may also be a burden in terms of resources because the University would have to hire more employees and purchase more food to support around-the-clock service.

That being said, the general population of students may greatly benefit from access to a 24-hour dining hall. To alleviate some of the stress of hiring more employees, the University might consider hiring students to clean up, for example. This would create more job opportunities for students, in addition to expanding the accessibility of on-campus dining.