New VCUDine location launches, other locations delayed by supply chain challenges

Students wait in line at the Commons for the newly opened Za’atar on Feb. 14. Photos by Kaitlyn Fulmore

Davina Efetie, Contributing Writer

A new campus dining location, Za’atar, opened in the University Student Commons on Monday after delays due to supply chain shortages. 

The location was slated to open last year mid-fall along with Steak ‘n Shake, which has been further delayed due to supply chain challenges with equipment orders, according to VCU spokesperson Anna Obermiller. Steak ‘n Shake, which features a diner-like menu, is not projected to open until March 14, Obermiller stated in an email.

“We have received all of the materials needed for Za’atar to open, but we are still waiting for additional equipment to open Steak ‘n Shake,” Obermiller stated.

Sophomore music student Adam Jones said it is nice to have another dining option other than Chick-fil-A at the University Student Commons. Jones said he ordered chicken shawarma with roasted vegetables and feta cheese on Za’atar’s first day.

“This is really really good, I’m surprised it’s only one swipe and it is arguably a lot healthier than Chick-fil-A and Steak ‘n Shake, so it’s nice,” Jones said. “It’s nice to have a healthy option.”

Jones said he will “definitely” be coming to Za’atar again.

A new on-campus grocery store, Ram City Market, originally slated for last semester, hasn’t opened yet. The store is projected to open early this spring, according to a previous report by The Commonwealth Times.

Freshman pre-dentistry student Camille Berry said she and her roommates are looking forward to the launch of Ram City Market.

“My roommates and I are vegetarian, we always go to either Target, Kroger or Whole Foods,” Berry said, “Those places are a bit far from campus, and so if the grocery store was open, it would have been really great.”

VCU students opted to replace Freshii and Taco Bell based on results from VCUDine’s student survey conducted in the fall of 2020. The new dining locations were established to hopefully expand student options and combat the lack of food options on campus according to the report by VCU News.

Junior photography and film student Camille Pratt and junior photography student Kalia Perry both expressed that the dining locations on campus always close early and there aren’t a lot of options available.

“My schedule is so late and it’s always a struggle to figure out what to eat other than Panda Express and Canes,’’ Pratt said. 

Although Perry said she doesn’t have any dietary restrictions, she expressed that besides AVO Kitchen, VCU students are mainly eating chicken and fried foods everyday. 

“At Panda Express, there’s only a little bit amount of vegetables we can put in. If we’re spending this much on a meal plan, then it should be better, especially for on-campus students as that’s our only option,” Perry said.

In response to the lack of dining options, VCU student Bella Love created a petition titled “VCU Dining Plan Reform.” Love sent out the petition for other students to sign so that VCU can make adjustments to the meal plan and not continue to “scam their students of money.”

Associate professor Youngmi Kim researched food insecurity at the university. She stated in an email that food insecurity of VCU students was about 35% before and after the pandemic onset.

“They were not necessarily the same students. Some students are food insecure at some points and not at other times per their resource availability/support, which is commonly reported in food insecurity research,” Kim stated.

Kim stated lack of awareness of campus resources such as the Ram Pantry, which is a resource for students committed to provide and help “mitigate the effects of food insecurity,” according to their website, aids the increase of food insecurity around the university. 

“Food insecure students tend to report poor mental health, worries, and difficulty in concentrating on their academic work,” Kim stated 

Kim stated healthier options and new dining locations provided on campus could help combat the issue of food insecurity among students, however their financial situations should be considered.

“That would be helpful, but also a reasonable price looks like one important criterion because many students shared that they can’t afford campus food options and the food quality is not satisfying,” Kim stated. 

Executive Editor Katharine DeRosa contributed to this report. 

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