Gabriela de Camargo Gonçalves, Contributing Writer
Freshman political science student Amna Oouati and freshman mass communications student Becca Scott enjoy sitting in front of Shafer Dining Court as they eat, but wish there were more menu options that could accommodate them during lunchtime.
“Honestly, without the meal plan, food would be quite a struggle,” Scott said. “I’d appreciate having more healthier options. I feel like AVO is a healthy option, and Shafer is healthy too, but I feel like a Mediterranean place would be really good.”
VCUDine announced on Sep. 14 that two new dining locations would be opening by mid-fall, according to VCU News. Due to supply chain issues and construction delays, the opening for the new locations has been postponed to spring 2022, according to VCUDine spokesperson Anna Obermiller.
The new locations, Steak ‘n Shake and Za’atar, will be the new additions to the University Student Commons. Steak ‘n Shake will offer diner-like food, like burgers, and Za’atar features Mediterranean and halal-approved cuisine, according to the VCUDine menu.
“That sounds really good because it is nice having something in the Commons other than Chick-fil-A, because the lines are always super long,” Scott said.
Obermiller stated supply chain issues were not the only thing to impact product availability. Lack of parts for machines, such as drink dispensers, contributes to out-of-order machines. VCUDine conducts machine maintenance quarterly, Obermiller stated.
VCUDine’s hiring quotas have not been met due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Obermiller.
“Locations with longer lines such as Shake Smart, Chick-fil-A and Einstein Bros. Bagels are fully staffed,” Obermiller stated. “We are pleased that some of our brands are so popular that students do choose to wait in line for their favorite brands.”
Senior biology student Brianna Price eats on campus at least three times a week. Price said that she faces “extremely long lines” every time she eats on campus.
“I really don’t think it’s worth it because of Chick-fil-A’s limited menus on campus,” Price said. “But it’s the only option that I like.”
Obermiller stated that almost 6,000 VCU students have a dining plan on campus, and about 384,400 swipes have been used in the 2021 fall semester as of Nov. 1. The cost of a swipe depends on the dining plan the student holds, according to Obermiller.
According to Obermiller, the choices of new dining locations are based on results from VCUDine’s student survey in the fall of 2020, when students opted for Steak ‘n Shake and Za’atar to replace Freshii and Taco Bell.
VCUDine dietitian Julia Danisewicz said the new locations will help expand students’ options.
In the meanwhile, Danisewicz said students can pursue new additions to the P.O.D. Market located in the Commons, including Good Uncle meals and the Simply Good Jars. Danisewicz said both are good options for those with a restrictive diet because they are prepackaged with strict labels.
“I feel like for some students who have those severe allergies, they can be a little more comforting, eating something prepackaged,” Danisewicz said. “Right now, I think they have four different standards with Simply Good Jars — four or five. But with the Good Uncle, there’s a ton of different options at the P.O.D.”
Desserts from local restaurant Shyndigz are another food option available for additional swipes at Market 810 or AVO Kitchen, according to Danisewicz. None of the swipe exchange options for Shyndigz desserts are gluten-free, although Shyndigz does offer gluten-free options.
Danisewicz said students can use the resources of a VCU dietitian for dietary and nutritional concerns and that she would be “more than happy” to meet with students to explore all the options available on campus, as well as do dining hall tours.
For more information on meal plan options and available locations, students can visit VCUDine’s website.