Students reflect on the accessibility to healthy food at USC

With 24 dining options on campus, Trojans weigh in on nutritional value and convenience.

The USC Village Dining Hall. (Photo by Michael Chow)

Food is fuel. For students, their well-being starts with their diet.

At USC, some students have found it challenging to secure healthy dining options on campus that are affordable, accessible and nutritious. Amanda Angeles, a sophomore studying musical theater, said she finds herself needing to rush to get to student dining options before they close for the day.

“It would be nice if places were open like past 6 p.m. or just at nighttime in general,” Angeles said.

According to USC Hospitality, there are 24 cafes at the University Park Campus, including three dining halls, four on-campus restaurants and 17 quick service locations. Of these locations, only two close later than 9 p.m.: Starbucks at Trojan Grounds, which is open until 11 p.m., and the USC Village Dining Hall, which is open until 10 p.m.

This number does not include the 13 dining options at the USC Village, which do not accept meal swipes. City Tacos, Greenleaf and Rock & Reilly’s accept discretionary dollars.

Jina Kang, a sophomore studying international relations (global business), said that the food options on campus can be pretty “hit or miss,” especially when it comes to the dining halls.

For upperclassmen or students who opt out of the meal plan, the dining halls are not as accessible financially. Leia La Madrid, a junior majoring in business administration, said that the dining hall “is probably the best option for food, but it can be kind of expensive.”

To purchase a dining hall swipe, the cost is $10.75 for breakfast, $14 for lunch and $14.25 for dinner. The least expensive meal plan for USC is the Community 25 Plan, which totals to $397 for 25 meal swipes and 50 dining dollars for the duration of the semester. But for the Trojan Plan or Gold Plan, it can cost upwards of $3,700 per semester.

All freshmen in USC housing are required to take on the Cardinal Meal Plan, which costs $3,315 for 19 meal swipes each week and seven guest swipes per semester. Sophomores, juniors and seniors in USC housing are required to purchase the Apartment Meal Plan, which is $705 for 40 meal swipes and $150 dining dollars for the semester.

La Madrid said affordability isn’t the only issue and that the dining experience could be improved in terms of variety and more options for students, “not just sandwiches that are easy to reproduce and chain restaurants.” Additionally, Kang said she would want the option to take food to go from the dining halls.

Lindsey Pine, a nutritionist, recipe developer and author, is USC Hospitality’s registered dietician. Pine “works diligently to help students and staff find the tastiest choices to fit all palates,” according to the USC Hospitality website.

Her guide to the healthiest dining options from 2019 at USC can be found here. While many of the options remain, Lemonade and The Habit are no longer available and Little Galen is an athlete-only dining option.

The restaurant changes and food options available on campus are attributed to student, staff and faculty needs.

“When planning or changing menus, we work to maintain well-rounded offerings campus-wide with an emphasis on nutrition and value,” said Dirk De Jong, assistant vice president of USC Auxiliary Services. “Our chefs work in cooperation with a registered dietician to provide healthful, plant-based options with variety and value.”

Further information about locations as well as hours of operation can be found on the USC Hospitality website. Students, staff and faculty are encouraged to send suggestions and comments using the USC Hospitality feedback portal.