Free the Food: Crisis at COD

An ongoing lack of later food options at COD, and what it means for the community.


Photograph by Elizabeth Barbosa

Mariana Quezada, Staff Writer

When you step into the McAninch Arts Center, you stumble upon a jail cell. It’s not a real jail cell, per se, but the now-closed Einstein Bros. Bagels, with metal bars in front of it, as if it were trying to escape. Anyone taking the hallway from the Berg Instructional Center (BIC) to the McAninch Arts Center (MAC) immediately recognizes this odd manifestation of disuse. A gray space in the midst of the MAC’s color, quiet in a busy intersection.

Einstein is not the only place that has gotten this treatment; so has Jazzman’s Cafe at the Technical Education Center (TEC), which, besides being behind bars, has a note with sad face emoji explaining its sentence. 

What is behind these bars? The closed food options of COD, which before the pandemic took a toll on their business, catered to a variety of students throughout the day across buildings. Now, a lack of food options plagues the COD community. 

Photograph by Elizabeth Barbosa

There is a pointed problem with the availability of food options at our college, specifically for night students. The latest a student can get food on campus is at 4 p.m., which doesn’t sound bad until you realize that the latest night classes start around 8 p.m. and end near 10 p.m.. After the cut-off at mid-afternoon, your opportunities to acquire food are reduced to vending machines with snacks, not meals, some of which can be overpriced. After the cut-off, if you’re a student, and have to eat, you’re at a clear disadvantage.

This isn’t the first time the issue has been raised. In fact, the Courier already published a piece on the lack of later food options at COD the past semester. It was highlighted that Sodexo, the college’s current food provider, and the college were in discussions as to what the future of the food service holds. Still, no change has been made. 

Those affected aren’t students taking only night classes but every student who has to stay after 4 p.m. Without the details, the issue can be swept away. After all, doesn’t campus look more deserted after lunch time? But once you look closely, the reality is unavoidable. In Fall 2022, there were 1,530 enrolled students on campus in classes beginning after 4:30 p.m. In Spring 2023, 1,169 students are enrolled in classes in the same time range. This leads us to wonder if there could be a higher number of students in the afternoon and evenings if there were more food options offered. From these numbers, it is worth taking into account the number of staff, including faculty, who also stay after 4 p.m. and aren’t provided proper food options at their place of work. Therefore, it doesn’t just affect students, but a larger population.

Our current reality is not working. According to research conducted by students in an English 1102 class here at COD, Magdalena Ogrodny, the Director of Business Services at the College of DuPage indicated that the contract with the college’s current food provider, Sodexo, will expire June 30, 2023. Whether or not COD decides to renew the contract and maintain the current modus operandi, it is critical to introduce sustainable food options that meet the student’s needs. This, obviously, includes night students. Moreover, in the results managed by the English 1102 students, the Sodexo contract, received by submitting a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) specified that, as a rule, they “need to meet the needs of the students, faculty, and administration in a satisfactory manner, as well as complying with reasonable requests made by the college.” Accordingly, proposals from the community would be welcome. 

This begs the question of what is actively being done about the topic. A factor that has been brought up time and again in the conversation is demonstrated interest in change, or suggestions from the community on how to solve the problem. This could include either opening the available food spots in the cafeteria, like the grab and go section, and/or Brew 425. Another option could be re-opening the now closed spaces in both the MAC and TEC buildings, and not necessarily with the name and provider they previously held. 

It’s worth noting that re-opening these spaces would be very beneficial as they are in key locations on campus. The TEC is located a bit farther from the main campus, and it hosts classes that are often taken in the later hours. It is a convenient spot for a source of food. This also applies to the MAC, which is on the other end of campus opposite the TEC and would benefit another large number of students. Moreover, this would avoid long lines or conglomeration in the current food areas located in the Student Services Center (SSC) at the main campus. 

Now is the time to take matters in hand, as it will not simply disappear over time. There will always be students on campus after 4 p.m., and the need for food remains. For the concerned student out there who wants to be involved more in the issue, it is important to look at the voices who represent the masses. Not so long ago, new student representatives were elected for the Student Leadership Council, including a new student trustee. Currently, there have been talks among students to push for this topic to be heard and presented to the board of trustees, who could understand the necessity experienced by the students they serve.

For now, the topic of late night food options is still in progress. The need for change is still present, too. Hopefully, a positive development will soon be achieved. It is through combined student effort that these types of issues can be presented and discussed. If this issue is considered then COD will soon be bound to free the food.