Forced food

Recently, the Student Senate at Grand Valley State University looked into making a proposal that would place a $1,000 cap on the food budget for any given student organization’s event. After strong resistance from several cultural organizations on campus, the Student Senate decided to review its proposal to make it more accommodating for all of the diverse groups on campus. With one potential crisis all but averted, there’s another problem cultural student organizations should focus on fixing.

Currently, any student organization that wishes to have food at an event is required to place catering orders through Campus Dining. Items on Campus Dining’s catering menu can be fairly pricey, with buffet options costing up to $16 per person, but the cost of such events become especially expensive for cultural events, at which authentic dishes must be prepared using fairly expensive and uncommon ingredients.

When cultural groups request dishes that aren’t on the Campus Dining’s catering menu (as often is the case), the group must provide recipes and preparation instructions along with their orders, which are passed on to the Campus Dining catering chefs. Organization representatives come in to taste test the dishes after they are prepared, but Asian Student Union President Mitchell Diep said the quality and authenticity of the dishes leaves much to be desired.

“We have to provide our recipes and tell them how to cook it within their budget,” he said. “A lot of the ingredients are very hard to get, and even when they do complete a dish, they mess it up. The food is just — it’s not authentic, and we usually rely on authenticity to bring cultural awareness to this campus.”

Food is a sure-fire way to increase attendance at events and can help entice students to venture out of their comfort zones, but the disproportionate cost of food puts cultural groups at a disadvantage. While many student organizations can buy the cheapest catering package possible and put “free food” on their posters, catering for cultural organizations is an unnecessarily elaborate and expensive process.

So the question becomes, why? Why is it necessary for cultural organizations to buy into high prices and lackluster preparation of food at Campus Dining to put on a decent event with decent attendance? Dennis Slogar, who serves on the Cultural Funding Board, said the university wants to make sure that people do not get sick by controlling all aspects of its ordering or preparation, but is it really any more of a risk to allow the students of an organization that have prepared dishes before to prepare them for an event? Campus Dining can gather the necessary ingredients easily enough, but is it too much to allow a student to prepare or even assist in the preparation of the food under the watch of a campus dining chef?

The whole process seems to need revamping. Cultural organizations full of students who have lived in foreign countries or grown up in a different culture should not have to order food for their events through a campus source that cannot provide authenticity. Instead, let them use outside caterers or prepare their own food and give Grand Valley a true taste of their culture.