With two supermarkets within a mile of the school, Stuart Hall isn’t technically a food desert, but time constraints and limited on-campus choices make a variety of fresh lunch options seem like a mirage to students.
Stuart Hall has two on-campus lunch choices — Sage Dining Services and Walt’s Catering Service. Sage is officially contracted by the school, while Walt’s food truck stops by the school each day.
Sage started serving the Pine-Octavia campus in the fall, after the contract with previous food provider Epicurean terminated. Students say there is less of a selection with the new food service.
“There are normally burgers, chicken tenders, and then sometimes Chinese food or pasta,” Jack Cady ’21 said. “I would be upset eating there almost every day because of the lack of variety.”
Cady isn’t the only student who says the cafeteria offers the same three options every day. Eighty-four percent of students say the Pine-Octavia campus offers three or fewer options for lunch on a daily basis, according to a Roundtable email survey to which over half of the student body responded.
“Space is our Achilles heel at Stuart Hall,” former manager of Convent & Stuart Hall’s Sage program Walter Ellerbe said about the small serving area on campus. “You guys are getting the burgers, the tenders, the pizza, and the fries.”
Sage also provides the Broadway campus with lunch. Breakfast and after school snacks are also available for purchase at Broadway, while they aren’t offered at Stuart Hall.
Although 60 percent of Stuart Hall students say they rarely eat at Broadway, 83 percent say they would rather eat there.
“I rarely get a chance to eat at the [Broadway] cafeteria, but the few times I have eaten there, I have noticed it is a lot better than Stuart Hall,” Mattheus Tellini ’21 said. “Hot meals are more abundant there. There is a salad bar, and sandwiches are available.”
In addition to having access to both the Broadway and Pine-Octavia cafeterias for lunch, Stuart Hall students are able to dine off-campus. Ninety-four percent of students surveyed say they would rather eat off-campus than eat from Stuart Hall’s Sage program.
“I mainly eat off campus because there are so many high-quality restaurants on Fillmore,” Cady said.
While off-campus options are preferred by students, students say timing and pricing can make eating off-campus frequently a difficult task.
“Eating at Fillmore for lunch is both expensive and time consuming,” Donovan Warren ’19 said.
Restaurants on Fillmore are at least half a mile away from Pine-Octavia, while Whole Foods is a quarter mile away. The time it takes to walk off-campus, eat, pay and walk back varies each day.
“To get lunch on Fillmore with friends, it takes around 45 minutes,” Nick Lutz ’20 said. “However if I am by myself, it takes 30 minutes, usually.”
For some students, choosing a lunch option is a matter of choosing between convenience and quality.
“Off-campus food can be good but expensive, and options available on campus can be more convenient or possibly less expensive, but not necessarily as good,” Warren said.
While Sage is contracted by Stuart Hall & Convent, food is a la carte, and parents pay for lunch electronically via My Kids Spending.
Meals at Sage are $7.50 and additional sides cost between $2.75 and $4. Compared to a restaurant like Glaze, which offers entrees at $10.50 to $12.50, Sage is more economical.
“Eating off campus is only a little more expensive than Sage, as Sage is still expensive,” Tellini said. “The extra cost for eating off campus is worth the quality and taste of the food in my opinion.”
Walt’s Catering Service, the food truck that parks across the street from Stuart Hall, sells a variety of prepackaged food options and a few hot options.
“Walt’s is so inexpensive,” Tellini said. “You can get a meal at Walt’s for the cost of a side at Sage.”
Walt’s hot options are taquitos and dumplings. Prepackaged foods from Walt’s are Cup Noodles and other ramen meals, Costco muffins, sport and soft drinks and candy.
“Basically we have a food truck that only serves prepackaged food and cafeteria food that is the same every day — that is unless you want to not walk off-campus for lunch, spend a lot of money, and risk being late to class,” Warren said.